My direct message inbox on Instagram received a message a few weeks back from a young woman that decided to send me a brief description of her cleft journey and included some photos (which I always love to see). Silvia Serrano told me about how through all of the amazing support from her family and the staff at CHLA (Children's Hospital Los Angeles), specifically Dr. Maggee, she was inspired to give back in some way. She studied to later become an LVN and works as one today. Silvia spoke to me a lot about how important she felt it was for the doctors and staff to play the positive role, like they did in her life, for clefties everywhere. Silvia is on her own journey of cleft awareness; researching and ready to give herself for the cause. She's a warrior, one I am thrilled to have a part of "1in700."


  When Silvia first arrived, I walked out into the parking lot to greet her to find her standing alone. I glanced around the lot a bit more, looking for someone to be parking the car, or walking up to join her inside. After giving her a big welcome hug, I asked if anyone was joining her. She simply said, no. She later explained that this meeting was special for her; that she had never met another cleftie before and that this encounter deserved 100% of her attention. I did that thing where you open your eyes as wide as you can so you don't cry (haha); you don't realize how much of an honor it is to receive someone's full attention until you have it...and I without a doubt, had it. 

  Silvia looked me in the eyes and told me how blessed she is. She embraces her smile and has a fiery passion to help her cleft siblings achieve the same feeling. We all deserve to feel beautiful. 

Zachary Rodetis-Urenda