Cleft Con 2023 Session Recordings

Connect. Engage. Share Smiles.

Cleft Con 2023

We are happy to share recorded sessions from our 2023 Virtual Cleft Con. We hope you find them as inspiring as we do! If you would like to request one of these speakers for an upcoming meeting or event, please email

Keynote: Henry and Jeremy Shipp

We invite you to join us for a special replay of the captivating keynote address Henry and Jeremy Shipp delivered at Cleft Con NYC this summer. Jeremy Shipp is a writer on Disney Branded Television's animated series Firebuds, about a team of first responders’ children and their talking vehicle sidekicks who embark weekly adventures that teach the true meaning of heroism. Jeremy was inspired to write the episode “Cleft Hood” — which introduces Castor, a vehicle character born with a cleft hood — by his son, Henry, who was born with a cleft lip and palate. Henry also voices Castor in the episode. Previously, Shipp was part of the Emmy® Award-winning writing team on Disney Channel's Rapunzel's Tangled Adventures. With over a decade of experience as a writer for animation, his additional credits include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Family Tools, and Dinotrux. This keynote presentation left a lasting impact on those who attended, and we are thrilled to offer the opportunity to experience their inspirational message once again. 

Cleft Con 2023 Tracks

I am Resilient - Share Your Story: Serena Heid, Dillon Miller, Kate Donovan and Alison Fors Moderator: Stephanie Strucaly

Life is a journey full of challenges, setbacks, and unexpected twists. Yet, it is often just these experiences that help us discover our inner reservoirs of resilience, determination, and courage. By sharing the stories of our challenges, we remind ourselves that we are resilient and strong — and help others find those qualities within themselves. This panel brings together a diverse group of cleft-affected storytellers who have faced adversity head-on and emerged stronger. It also aims to create a safe and supportive space for all cleft-affected people to openly discuss their experiences and inspire others to do the same. 

Cleft Treatment Insurance Challenges: Jocelyne Huitron and Ashley Divincenzo Moderator: Adina Lescher

Cleft-affected families in the US face enough challenges; worrying whether their insurance covers every cleft treatment their loved one needs should never be one of them. Yet we know that insurance denials are an all-too-common part of the cleft journey in this country. Join Jocelyne Huitron, LMSW, a medical social worker at Texas Children’s Hospital, as she discusses the specific roadblocks that cleft-affected families face when looking for insurance coverage, what families can do to prevent denials, and what steps families should take after they receive a denial. She will also provide bookkeeping tips and a basis for evaluating the scope of your insurance coverage. 

Facial Difference Between Community Allies and Advocacy: Aaliyah Booker and Amit Ghose Moderator: Phyllida Swift

Advocacy and building allies within the facial difference community are essential steps toward promoting awareness, understanding, and support for individuals with facial differences. Join us for this session with allies in the facial difference community who are growing and amplifying an inclusive, empowered community devoted to campaigning for face equality.

Cleft and Beauty: Naomi Heather Hader, Pamela Bolado and Stephanie Heintz Moderator: Iva Ballou

This empowering panel discussion will delve into the intersection of clefts and concepts of beauty, emphasizing the importance of redefining beauty standards to embrace diversity and individuality. Speakers will encourage a shift in perspective and celebrate the beauty that resides in every individual, regardless of their physical appearance, and highlight the strength, resilience, and unique qualities that make each person with a cleft truly remarkable. Whether you have a cleft, know someone who does, or simply want to explore the concept of beauty in a more inclusive way, you will leave this session inspired to accept yourself as you are and celebrate the diversity of beauty in all its forms. 

Cleft and Beauty Part One Pamela Bolado

Cleft and Beauty Part Two Naomi Heather Hader

Cleft and Beauty Part Three Stephanie Heintz

Cleft Kid Superheroes: Henry Shipp and Dahlila Nixon Moderator: Ariana Gould

Join us for an inspiring and uplifting discussion with extraordinary children with clefts who embody courage, resilience, and determination. We will celebrate these young superheroes and their families while offering insights and support to others navigating similar challenges. Whether you are a parent, caregiver, healthcare professional, or simply interested in learning more about these young superheroes’ incredible origin stories, this session will leave you with valuable insights and inspiration. Together, we can celebrate the superheroes within every family.  

“Best Smile in The World Documentary” Viewing and Discussion: Sarah Wun

Experience the powerful short film "Best Smile in the World" by Sarah Wun as it takes you on a powerful, personal journey through the filmmaker’s life and how she came to love herself and cultivate a positive inner dialogue. An insightful discussion exploring the film's themes of personal growth, resilience, and the transformative power of self-love will follow the viewing.