ACPA Family Services

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Connections Conference For the Win!

You’ve probably seen months of hype for our 2014 Connections Conference… and it was all for a reason!  What a fantastic day we had in Indianapolis!   The event brought a great turnout and between our fantastic keynote speakers, informative breakout sessions, and adorable therapy dog visitors, everyone left the day with big smiles.


Connections was held at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott and kick-started with an inspirational and entertaining keynote address by David Roche.  We were happy to have David and his wife, Marlena Blavin, join us for their third Connections Conference this year.  They are lovely people with a special heart for those affected by cleft and craniofacial conditions.  David and Marlena facilitated a workshop on the power of personal storytelling, which was a moving experience for many of our participants.  David and Marlena’s keynote comments also provided the perfect bookends to the day’s event.


Other workshops covered a variety of topics, including:

  • Speech/language therapy for early childhood and elementary years (Theresa Snelling, MA, CCC-SLP)
  • Navigating the world of insurance and craniofacial care (Marilyn Cohen, LSLP)
  • The genetics of cleft and craniofacial issues (Howard Saal, MD)
  • What to do when people stare (Charlene Pell)
  • How to improve outcomes for children with craniofacial differences (Claudia Bellucci, MS)

Special thanks to the highly-qualified volunteers who led these workshops!  They were instructive and beneficial to all those who attended.


Another highlight of the day was the Team Q&A Panel, where key specialty areas of a typical treatment team were represented and families had the opportunity ask questions and discuss their individual needs and concerns.  This year’s panelists included Claudia Bellucci, MS; Angela Dixon, MA, CCC-SLP; Ron Hathaway, DDS, MS, MS; Trish Severns, MA; and Isaac Wornom, MD.  A sincere round of applause to this “team” of professionals for sharing their expertise with Connections families!



We also enjoyed a panel of individuals and families from a variety of backgrounds who shared their own personal journeys with cleft and craniofacial care.  We could go on all day about all the wonderful contributions of our program participants!



Besides all the connections, support, and education that took place throughout the day, there was a whole lot of fun going on too!  Our children’s activity room was a busy and happy place, with everything from crafts and origami to movies and books.  Highlights of their play day included a kids’ yoga session and a visit from about 15 dogs of all sizes, who were completely content with the shower of love and excitement that came from our group (kids and adults alike!).



All in all, Connections was a huge success.  Please visit our 2014 Photo Gallery for a peek at the good times we had.   If you attended Connections 2014, please leave us a comment here so others hear about your personal highlights from the day!   For those we missed this go-around, we hope you’ll spread the word about Connections and join us in the future!

Congratulations, 2014 CPF College Scholarship Recipients!

We are pleased to announce our 2014 CPF college scholarship recipients. We received a competitive pool of over 100 extraordinary applicants, and the CPF Scholarship Committee had no small task in selecting this year’s recipients. We would like to thank all of the generous donors who continue to make this fund possible and who have helped us set a new record for 2014 as we award 18 $500 scholarships. Read more about this year’s recipients here.

The 2014 CPF college scholarship recipients are:

Whittney Chu – Warren, NJ

Elana Colangelo – West Hartford, CT

Anise Gagnon – Orlando, FL

Hailey Gardner – Blythewood, SC

*Nathan Garran – Eastham, MA
       *Gip Seaver Scholarship Recipient

Sarah Garvin – Cortland, OH

Kelsey Haggerty – Shoreham, NY

Lauren Hestand – Lompoc, CA

Logan Jones – Simi Valley, CA

Kristina Ladd – Ayer, MA

Claudia Lay – Carrollton, TX

Justin Marsee – Thompson Station, TN

Antonio Renaldo – Pasadena, MD

+Cantley Roberts – Malvern, PA
       + Randall/LaRossa Scholarship Recipient

Nicholas Rossi – New City, NY

Rachel Sciabica – San Antonio, TX

Chelsea Valenzuela – Delray Beach, FL

Haley Whitfield – Trophy Club, TX


Drum Roll Please…

With big smiles and cheers, we’re thrilled to announce our

2014 Connections Conference 

for individuals and families affected by cleft lip/palate or other craniofacial conditions!!  Connections will be held March 22, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana and you can learn all about it here.  We hope you’ll consider joining us!


The Cleft Palate Foundation hosts a Connections Conference every two years in different cities around the country.  This year, we’re looking forward to adventures in the MidWest with many Families of Champions (our conference theme).

Connections offers a unique mix of education, friendship, and fun and is designed for the whole family.  Some highlights of the conference include keynote addresses by David Roche and Marlena Blavin, breakout workshops covering common topics of interest, a Q&A session with treatment team specialists, and a panel of families sharing insights from their own journeys in cleft/craniofacial care.  For the kiddos, we’ll have some four-footed, furry friends stopping by, kids’ yoga and movement fun, professional storytelling, and more!  Still on the fence about coming?  Let’s throw a pizza party, wine & cheese reception (cookies & milk offered too), and Connections t-shirts into the mix!  Okay, you’ve gotta see by now why we’re a little excited for this event…  It’s only $30 for the first adult, $20 for additional adults and teens, and $10 per child to attend and you can register online.


If you still have questions after looking through our website, please feel free to give me a call (800-24-CLEFT) or leave me a comment on this post.  Please register soon so we can plan all of the best for you!  If Indy’s a little too far this go-around, please stay tuned for future conferences in your area.  (Wouldn’t hurt to drop us a note about how great your city is too… future locations are under review!)  We love interacting with you all on social media, email, and the Cleftline, but we’d be so happy to meet you in person too.  Hope to see you at Connections 2014!


**Also, please note our new blog feature, ‘Subscribe via Email’, on the right side of the page. Get new CPF posts delivered to your inbox!**

We Can’t Wait to Connect in 2014!

Happy 2014 everyone!

We hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and that you are ready to read, comment, ask, answer, interact, and just generally connect with us and others here on Cleft Connection this year!

The new year is a great time to regroup and refresh so we’d like to take this opportunity to share a refresher on what exactly it is that we do here at the Cleft Palate Foundation and hopefully on how we can help you.

So let’s get started!

So what/who is the Cleft Palate Foundation?

The Cleft Palate Foundation (CPF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1973 to be the public service arm of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association.

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Our mission is to serve individuals and families affected by cleft lip/palate and other craniofacial conditions by connecting them to team care, providing education, and offering personal support.

What does the Cleft Palate Foundation do?


  1. provide information to educate patients, families, and professionals,
  2. make referrals to cleft/craniofacial treatment teams and advocate for family-centered team care,
  3. offer telephone and online support: 1-800-24-CLEFT (800-242-5338),,
  4. host the Connections Conference: for Families, Caregivers, and Patients,
  5. provide Cleftline Teddy Bears with repaired cleft lips,
  6. share stories from and for affected individuals and families,
  7. award a minimum of three $500 college scholarships each year to young adults affected by cleft and craniofacial birth defects,
  8. fund research to learn all we can about prevention and care, and
  9. award scholarships to healthcare professionals.
How can I find out more about one or more of these services and programs?

You can click on the links above for more information on the specific service or program you are interested in.

For more information on #s 1-4 above, call us at 800-24-CLEFT or email us at to speak with our Director of Family Services, Stephanie Williamson.

For more information on #s 5-9 above, call us at 919-933-9044 or email us at to speak with our Foundation Administrator, Emily Kiser.

Questions? Comments? Just want to say hello?  Let’s connect in the comments section below!

Today is Giving Tuesday!

What is Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. In the same way that retail stores and customers take part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, nonprofit organizations and the community come together for Giving Tuesday.

Giving_Tuesday_logo_with_buttonHow can I give?

This Giving Tuesday we at the Cleft Palate Foundation are raising funds to print our feeding video in Spanish. As many of you know – and have experienced firsthand – learning to feed a baby with a cleft can be TRICKY. If the parents are not informed about proper feeding techniques, the baby might not receive enough nutrition and therefore not gain essential weight needed to survive. Your gift today will support new parents all over the world in feeding their babies and SAVE lives! [Click here or on the button above to make your secure online gift.]

What if I would like to give to another one of CPF’s programs?

That would be wonderful! To give to another one of our programs – including teddy bears, research, college scholarships, etc. – you can use this secure donation page.

What are other ways I can help?

Check out these links for more ideas on how you can spread awareness and support CPF!

Thank you for joining us this Giving Tuesday in the celebration of sharing and giving back!

CPF Announces 2014 Leadership Award Recipient

The Cleft Palate Foundation (CPF) is pleased to announce our 2014 CPF Leadership Award recipient is Maria Teresa Torres de Salcedo from Lima, Peru.

Each year CPF recognizes an individual or group who has demonstrated exceptional service and leadership on behalf of individuals with cleft or craniofacial anomalies. Maria Teresa was nominated by her colleagues at Transforming Faces and will be honored during the awards luncheon at the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 27, 2014.

In 1997, Maria Teresa was in her last year of university when she met a child who had cleft lip and palate.  At first, she thought a surgery was all he needed. However, it quickly became apparent that the child also needed psychological support and speech therapy.

Continue reading →

On the Other End of the Line

You’ll meet many new folks here at Cleft Connection including a few regulars that you’ll see again and again. Take a few moments to meet those on the other end of the line:

Emily Kiser_colorEmily Kiser has been the Foundation Administrator at CPF since March 2011. If you’ve ordered a CPF teddy bear, applied for a CPF college scholarship, or ordered CPF booklets, Emily may have helped you. A Spanish-speaker, she is the first-contact person for our Spanish-speaking patients and families.

SW1Stephanie Williamson joined CPF staff as Director of Family Services in the summer of 2013. From direct service to research to education, Stephanie’s professional experience has woven through many facets of individual and family support. Whether you’ve got a question about a treatment team, feeding support, care as an adult, or any other craniofacial care issue, Stephanie’s mission is to connect you with the information and resources you need.

Lisa mugLisa Gist Walker has been part of the CPF community since 2006 and is former Director of Family Services. Since 2010 she’s managed special projects and events for CPF including publications and staff development. Lisa’s work with children and families stretches across more than 25 years and includes community mental health services and other non-profit settings.

         That’s us, the regulars you’ll see here at Cleft Connection.                 We can’t wait to meet you, too!