We are Ray and Chelsea Ortiz and our youngest son, Richie, was born with a unilateral cleft lip. At our 20-week ultrasound, we learned that our son would be born with a cleft lip and possibly a cleft palate. Our three main concerns were: will our baby struggle to eat when he is born, how will this affect his overall development, and how can we prepare ourselves to be the very best parents for our son. We count our blessings in finding immediate answers through the Cleft Palate Foundation. Our son’s initial lip surgery took place on Valentine’s Day, and once he reached full recovery, we set out to give thanks to the Cleft Palate Foundation for their continued dedication to cleft and craniofacial conditions.
In July of 2014, after just a few weeks of planning, we held our very first CleftStrong 5k at our local park. We invited friends, family, and friends of friends to join us in spreading awareness and raising money for the Cleft Palate Foundation. Around 150 people joined us to do just that. It was one of our greatest pleasures to mail our first check to the Cleft Palate Foundation as our part in making sure others would have the opportunity to receive the same kind of support we were so grateful to have received.
With more time to prepare and the help of some amazing sponsors, we held the second annual CleftStrong Family 5k at Morgan’s Wonderland in September of 2015! Volunteers from across the community signed on to help make this morning possible. During the several months spent preparing for the event, we had many opportunities to share what the Cleft Palate Foundation had done for us and other families affected by cleft and craniofacial conditions. Significant awareness was taking place right before our eyes. We watched the community come together with those personally affected and those who were simply touched by the cause and happy to support. We learned that so many adults had spent their entire childhood not knowing that there were other children just like them. We formed friendships that we can count on lasting a lifetime. Around 250 people joined us on this special morning.
The third annual CleftStrong Family 5k was held this past September bringing in around 500 people including some who raced virtually from other states. We were thrilled to have our first presenting sponsor, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, who was a great contributor to its success. The 1 in 700 project joined and captured several of those in our cleft community. We had several guest speakers who helped our cleft community feel supported and understood while educating others on the experiences of those born with cleft conditions. It has been a blessing watching this event become what it is today. Over the past three years, the CleftStrong 5k has been fortunate enough to donate more than $34,000.00 to benefit the Cleft Palate Foundation. We began with a very simple goal of sharing gratitude, the good work done by the Cleft Palate Foundation, and an understanding for cleft and craniofacial conditions. As we make our way into planning the 4th annual CleftStrong 5k, we strive to continue growing stronger each year.. in more ways than one.