2023 Cleft Con New York Session Recordings

Connect. Engage. Share Smiles.


Cleft Con NYC 2023

We are happy to share recorded sessions from our Cleft Con NYC 2023. 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 cleftcon@smiletrain.org.

Keynote Address: Jeremy and Henry Shipp

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: Each week, they embark on a new adventure that teaches 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.

Navigating the Cleft Journey: Insights and Guidance from Cleft-Affected Young Adults and Parents

Speakers: Malik Dorant, Christina Larrow, Julia North, Anastasia Shender
Moderator: Troy Reinhart


Parents who are not cleft-affected themselves may find it challenging to fully grasp their child’s emotions and experiences. This session acknowledges this unique perspective and brings together cleft-affected individuals, as well as parents who have journeyed alongside their cleft-affected children. Led by panelists Malik Dorant, Christina Larrow, Julia North, and Anastasia Shender, this session aims to provide parents with guidance and understanding for supporting their cleft-affected children. 

Cleft Treatment Insurance Challenges

Speakers: Carolyn Ballou, Jocelyne Huitron, 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. Carolyn Ballou, a cleft mom, will share her story of battling with insurance companies for her daughter’s treatment and Adina Lescher, Smile Train’s VP of Community Development, will provide an overview of the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (ELSA) and how Smile Train is advocating for this important legislation. 

Help Your Child Talk about Their Facial Difference

Speakers: Vickie Stolle, Alexis Lee

Join Vickie Stolle, Founder of Dragonfly Paradigm and member of Smile Train’s Cleft Community Advisory Council (CCAC), for a session that aims to equip parents with practical strategies and insights for helping their children engage in conversations about the way they look with confidence and positivity. A portion of the session will be a workshop with Vickie and fellow CCAC member Alexis Lee. 

Empowering Children and Teens to Navigate Cleft Care, Appearance, and Social Concerns with Resilience

Speaker: Dr. Leanne Magee

From difficulties in school to encounters with bullying, many cleft-affected people face social dilemmas from a young age. In this can’t-miss session for parents, Dr. Leanne Magee, Pediatric Psychologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, provides caregivers tools for helping their children and teens build resilience and respond to bullying.  

Giving Back to the Cleft Community

Speakers: Sally Hiraldo, Lisa Wyzlic, Alyssa Messick
Moderator: Grace Peters 

The global cleft community is known for its generosity and commitment to helping one another. This session highlights three cleft community members — Sally Hiraldo, Lisa Wyzlic, and Alyssa Messick — who exemplify our values, who noticed needs within the community and took creative — and inspiring — action to meet them.

Cleft Dads

Speakers: Eric Bates, Zeb Carabello, Jeremy Shipp
Moderator: Caitlin Mesiano

Join us for a session that will shed a powerful light on the experiences of cleft dads. In this inspiring and thought-provoking discussion, Eric Bates, Zeb Carabello, and Jeremy Shipp will share their personal journeys navigating the unique challenges and joys associated with raising a cleft-affected child. These dads will explore the emotional, practical, and societal aspects of their experiences, providing invaluable insights and support for fellow fathers and attendees alike. 

Cleft Care for Adults

Speaker: Stephanie Boblooch

This highly requested session features Stephanie Boblooch, MSW, LCSW-C, Team Social Worker at The Randolph B. Capone Cleft Lip & Palate Program Clinical Program in Baltimore. Stephanie will provide an overview of common treatments that cleft-affected adults need/seek out and discuss how to identify a high-quality provider with cleft-related experience. She will also touch on the importance of psychological support when deciding upon any treatment plan and discuss how individuals can set realistic expectations about the potential outcomes of any intervention. 

Cleft and Career

Speakers: Crissy Maier, Dennis Martin, Sara Williamson
Moderator: Ashley Barbour 

For many individuals, the decision to disclose information about their cleft in a professional setting can feel daunting. In this empowering session, panelists Crissy Maier, Dennis Martin, and Sara Williamson will discuss their experiences in the workplace and share advice for others. 

Navigating the How, When, and Why of Discussing Your Cleft

Speakers: Dr. Kathleen Bogart, Lily Milkis, Dillon Miller, Sam Rosen

This session will focus on being an adult with a cleft/facial difference. Do individuals ever “owe” others their story? Is it common to feel pressure to share… or not to share? What does that look like? What techniques can help individuals navigate these questions? Kathleen Bogart, PhD, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Oregon State University, has dedicated her career to research and advocacy centered on intervening in encounters with facial difference stigma. Join her as she shares her original research on these topics as panelists Lily Milkis, Dillon Miller, and Sam Rosen share their personal experiences. 

Share Your Story

At Cleft Con, we believe that every person with a cleft has a unique and important story to tell. In this session, Nicole Bell, VP of Public Relations at Smile Train, will share her thoughts and guidance on how to craft and share your story. Nicole is a veteran storyteller with extensive experience working with cleft-focused organizations. In her decades-long career, she has spearheaded national and international campaigns and served as a journalist, media strategist, and college professor.