English teacher and students help children with cleft palates


English teacher Mrs. Chris Billie has worked with her students for the past five years to donate money to the Smile Train Organization, an organization that helps children born with cleft palates. This year, the organization gave back to her.

Because Billie and her students have raised so much money in the past years, she was invited to a dinner in downtown Chicago at the restaurant Tru.

“It wasn’t a fundraiser, and it wasn’t to solicit money; it was just to say thank you,” Billie said.

At the dinner, she got to meet and talk with numerous members from the Smile Train organization.  They informed her about new additions and ideas for the foundation.

“One thing they told us about was how some kids haven’t spoken, so, once they have surgery, they need speech therapy.  Now they’re getting into that,” Billie said.

“Most kids with cleft palates can’t speak or eat right; therefore, they get shunned,” Billie said. “All the money raised by the organization is put towards teaching doctors and nurses how to perform surgeries for these kids.”

Billie started getting involved with organization by teaching the book The Kite Runner in her senior literature class. Since the main character in the book has a cleft palate, Billie researched pictures of the disease to show her students. That’s when she came across the Smile Train foundation.

“I found a picture of a child from Smile Train and it hit me. Wouldn’t it be nice if in the classroom, while
we’re reading the book, we collect money?” Billie said.

She encourages the students to put in whatever amount of money they have, no matter how small. “Our goal for each class is one surgery, which costs $250,” Billie said.

Currently, Billie’s  senior literature class is half way through The Kite Runner. Once they finish, she will count the money and treat her students to breakfast as a thank you.

“I think the kids give back as much as they get…they really feel good about it,”  Billie said.