Full-time mom, jewelry maker, and designer Melinda Fry-Bly from Florida shares the story how her son Colton inspired her to become a member of Smile Train’s Cleft Community Advisory Council.
In 2013, I was the general manager at a skateboarding company when, at a scheduled ultrasound with my husband, I found out that my son was going to be born with a cleft and our lives changed forever. I went home and searched online for “cleft lip” and Smile Train’s website popped up — I clicked the link and spent hours reading everything trying to understand more about clefts.
That June, my son Colton was born with both a cleft lip and palate. I knew that God gave him to me for a reason — I was strong enough to handle what I was about to go through. I was blessed with the most beautiful baby boy in the world.
Over the next several years, Colton received nasoalveolar molding (NAM) treatments, cleft lip surgery, palate surgery, and inserted ear tubes — he’s also legally blind in his left eye, but that is not cleft related. Despite all of the time Colton has spent in the hospital, at doctors’ appointments, and at other treatments, he’s remained a happy, wonderful, and sweet boy.
Ever since Colton was born, I’ve become a fierce advocate for children born with clefts. I became an admin on the Facebook support group A Cleft Mommy'd Bond of Friendship — founder Lisa Wyzlic and I started sending care packages to mom’s preparing for their child’s cleft surgery filled with snacks, goodies to make them feel good, and my handmade cleft jewelry. I also started another page called Cleft Connect where I connect moms to each other for support.
In 2015, I received devastating news — I had stage four Hodgkin Lymphoma and a mass in my lungs. I had to quit my job and our family moved in with my mother-in-law. While battling cancer, I continued making cleft jewelry and even created a store "Inspired by Colton" on Etsy.
In 2017, I saw that Smile Train was looking for cleft advocates to join their Cleft Community Advisory Council (CCAC). I applied because I wanted to be a part of something that my son would be proud of me, after I pass away. I want him to know that I was proud of him and I fought for his life to be easier and for more people to be educated about his cleft.
I’d like the CCAC council to do even more — maybe travel and mentor other families going through what we have. I’d tell every cleft parent and child born with a cleft that being different is beautiful, life is beautiful, and live every day to the fullest.
If you’d like to learn more about ways to help children with untreated clefts, including opportunities to volunteer, please visit the Get Involved section of our site. Your support can help a child receive their forever smile and a second chance at life.