The following was written by Andrea Frye as she prepares to run, bike, and swim 140.6 miles at IRONMAN® Arizona 2017 to raise funds for Smile Train’s Team EMPOWER.
November 14, 2006, was the day I became a mother and it was the day that changed the way I look at a smile forever. The doctor placed my son in my arms and I peered down at him — he was so full of wonder and life. I saw no cleft lip, no imperfection — he was my perfect baby boy. Fortunately, we live in the USA and we had the financial means to arrange for my son’s life-changing cleft surgery.
My son underwent his cleft lip surgery when he was just shy of three months old. I remember holding him in my arms — his tiny face was swollen and his lip was full of stitches. A few days later, while I was feeding him through a syringe, he looked up at me and it happened — he smiled his first smile. I will never forget that moment.
Today my son is a confident, intelligent, athletic, funny, outgoing, compassionate, and ambitious 13-year-old. He has climbed Mount Rainier, participated in school sports, acted in plays, and even completed his first triathlon this summer — but if he hadn’t been fortunate enough to receive cleft treatments, his life would have turned out differently.
This year, I decided to run IRONMAN® Arizona as a member of Smile Train’s Team EMPOWER. I’ve found that when one prepares for the rigors of an endurance race such as IRONMAN®, it can be difficult to answer ‘Why are you doing this?’. In the past my motivation was trying to prove my inner-strength or showing my children that anything is possible — this year my reason is clear — to give children around the world born with cleft lip and palate access to the same life-changing surgery as my son. Now that's some serious motivation!
On race day I am looking forward to turning my 140.6 miles into smiles. Thanks to the generous donations from my friends, family, and colleagues, crossing the finish line will empower me to provide life-changing cleft surgeries for children around the world – more rewarding than the medal they place around my neck.
If you would like to find out more about Andrea, or to donate to her efforts, please visit her fundraising page. If you are interested in turning miles into smiles, including IRONMAN® Arizona, visit our Smile Train Team EMPOWER page to learn more and sign up for a race today.