Spreading Awareness One Person at a Time

Alyssa KirkmanWater Cooler Chat

Wendy-Jo Toyama, MBA, CAE headshot

Wendy-Jo Toyama, MBA, CAE

National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness month is an opportunity to reinforce the messages that you share with patients and families every day.  It’s an opportunity to raise awareness about facial differences and inspire empathy, compassion and kindness.

I began my association career at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, the third largest YMCA in the country serving one million people through 33 centers, four camps and 10 single-room occupancy housing units.  When I came to North Carolina, the president of the YMCA of the USA Kevin Washington (a supervisor from my Chicago days) connected me with the local YMCA.  I was pleased to learn that the YMCA of the Triangle is second largest YMCA in terms of number of children served.  This year, in conjunction with Awareness Month, we provided a unit on Compassion to be included in its Camp Curriculum.

ACPA also spread awareness this month by participating in the Nurse Practitioner Show on Dr. Radio. The show on July 5, hosted by ACPA Board Member Pat Chibbaro, was dedicated to Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness.  ACPA President Amelia Drake and I joined Pat for an hour, sharing insights on the care of those with cleft lip and palate and how ACPA supports professionals and families.

We were fortunate to have ACPA Vice President Elect Lynn Fox and ACPA Scholarship Winner Henry Baddour read to children at the Chapel Hill Public Library.  Lynn shared We’re All Wonders by, RJ Palacio and Henry read Jack’s New Smile, by Ruth Trivelpiece, MEd, Suzanne West, MSN and Jennifer Rhodes, MD.  At the end of the reading, we asked how they would act now when they encounter someone with a facial difference. The group in unison agreed they would be kind.  I asked Henry if he experienced kids being mean when he was growing up. He shared that he still gets looks every day and yes, there were times when people were mean.  At which point, one of the young girls at the reading ran up and gave him a hug. The power of this gesture was inspiring and reminds us that we make a difference one person at a time.

I hope you are enjoying sharing your passion this month and remember to send your stories to us so we can share them with our community!