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Smiles Inspired by his dad, Key Biscayne teen
Michael Kelly is helping people in need
find their smiles overseas — and bringing
a smile to his own face in the process.
T e x t by Jacq uely n B enso n
42 ichael Kelly loves his dad. “For
as long as I can remember, my
father has been going on missions
as a surgeon,” says the Gulliver
Preparatory junior. Kelly is the son
of Dr. Michael Kelly of Miami Plastic Surgery, who
has spent years volunteering with Operation Smile,
a non-profit that sends medical teams to developing
countries to offer cleft lip, cleft palate and facial
deformity surgery to people in need.
Recently, the younger Kelly undertook a journey
of his own, volunteering in Nyeri, Kenya, as part
of Operation Smile’s student program. Kelly helped
with educating patients on health and nutrition, and
kept them company before their surgeries. “Every
time my father came home from a mission he would
tell me the horror stories of these people’s lives and
how after each surgery, each patient was changed
forever and given a brighter future,” Kelly recounts.
“It was their stories that inspired me to volunteer.”
His father isn’t the only family member who
helped inspire Kelly’s interest in volunteering.
His sister, Emma, has also taken part in medical
missions, going to Fortaleza, Brazil, as a student
volunteer. “I have always seen her as a great leader
in school, in athletics, and then in Operation Smile,”
Kelly says. “It was her example that made me
understand what I, too, could do for the world.”
The young volunteer is now well on his way to
collecting inspiring stories of his own. For example,
while in Kenya, he once gave a talk on Operation
Smile at a local school. After the presentation, he
was told that a few of the students wanted him to
play with them out on the field. But to his surprise,
when he went outside, it wasn’t just a handful of
students ready to play with him, the entire school
was out there — over 1,000 children from 1st
through 8th Grade. “I’ll never forget the time I spent
on the field that day, nor will I forget how all the
barriers of our cultures broke down in that hour.”
In between school and participation in two sports
teams, the busy teen will now be helping to train
new volunteers to go on similar missions, as well as
giving presentations about Operation Smile’s work
and helping to organize events and fundraisers.
Next on the list is a 5K walk/run fundraiser, which
will take place on Dec. 4. Those interested in
walking can register for $10 online or $15 on the
day of the event, which begins at Baptist Hospital.
For more information about the race, visit
OSWCS5KWalk.org. To learn more about Operation
Smile, visit OperationSmile.org.