Making Magical Moments

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By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

Sophia, the first Magical Moments recipient, is pictured here with Rabii Saber, an award winning pastry chef. Sophia got to spend the day with the chef and learn tricks of the trade. She wants to become a pastry chef.

Thinking about having a yard sale? The good news is you can get rid of some clutter while restoring hope in a child’s life.

The Magical Moments Foundation will host Piles for Smiles, a city-wide event on May 14-16 that will allow Columbus area homeowners to donate some or all of the proceeds from their yard sales to the non-profit organization.

The wish-granting foundation serves children with facial differences that are the result of congenital anomalies, facial burns or trauma.

Richard Kirschner, chair of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital co-founded the Magical Moments Foundation with his wife, Krista Schrader, just over a year ago. As the director of the Cleft Lip and Palate Center at the hospital, Kirschner says his life has long been dedicated to serving children with facial differences both at home and abroad.

“We saw a real need for Magical Moments,” he said. “There are literally hundreds of wish-granting organizations in the U.S. that do the good work of serving children with life-threatening illnesses, but precious few that help children with facial differences that threaten the quality of their life for all of their lives.”

Krista Schrader, whose background includes healthcare work at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, serves as the organization’s executive director. She says kids are growing up in a world that is increasingly centered on appearance and that defines beauty in a particular way.

“We need to look no further than the ads on our billboards and magazines, in the media and on social media,” she said. “We now even have filters to enhance our facial appearance on social media and Zoom. This is the world in which we live.”

Concerns about appearance can affect children’s self-esteem and put them at risk for mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, Kirschner said. In fact, recent studies show that up to 75 percent of children admit to having been bullied at school and that 25 percent have experienced cyberbullying.

“With all of this in mind, you can certainly understand that, for some children living with a facial difference resulting from a genetic condition, cleft lip and palate or other congenital craniofacial differences, a birthmark, cancer treatment or from facial trauma or burns, the world can sometimes be a place of sadness, isolation and even hopelessness,” he said.

Children born with facial differences and those living with the scars of facial trauma may endure the pain of teasing, bullying and isolation, he said.

“For many, appearance-related stigma can interfere with their healing, their self-esteem and their quality of life,” he said. “In any form, appearance-related stigma can shatter dreams and leave emotional scars that can remain for years.”

The couple founded Magical Moments Foundation to change all of this, they say by providing magical moments for those with facial differences.

“Our mission is to restore children’s hope and self-esteem while also fundamentally changing the world in which they live,” Schrader said.

A girl named Sophia became the organization’s first child to have her wish granted – a trip to Walt Disney World. Sophia was born with a cleft lip and palate in Guizhou, China. She was adopted by her parents in December of 2010, and three months later, underwent the first of many surgical procedures to reconstruct her lip, nose and palate.

On top of the several surgeries and painful recoveries she endured, her father suddenly died in 2018.

“Magical Moments Foundation recently granted Sophia the wish of a trip to Walt Disney World with her mother and her younger brother and sister,” Schrader said. “While in Orlando, Sophia, who dreams of becoming a pastry chef, was also granted the opportunity to spend a day with Rabii Saber, the executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Resort and one of the world’s finest, award-winning pastry chefs.”

Columbus residents who wish to participate in Piles for Smiles and donate a portion or all of their yard sale proceeds to Magical Moments Foundation so that other children like Sophia can realize their dreams can sign up on the organization’s website at magicalmomentsfoundation.org and clicking the “Piles for Smiles” tab. Families can choose to host their sale for one, two or all three days.

“We will provide participating households with a toolkit to help them host their sale,” Kirschner said.

The toolkit will include signs, price stickers, a tips and instruction sheet, a Magical Moments cash donation box for shoppers who want to donate additional funds and some Magical Moments brochures to help raise awareness. The homeowner’s contribution is fully tax deductible, he said.

“By participating in Piles for Smiles, families can dispose of their gently used items, earn some cash, have some fun and help make children’s dreams come true,” he said.

Children may be nominated for a Magical Moment through magicalmomentsfoundation.org. Children ages 3 through 18 are eligible and may be nominated by family, friends, neighbors, teachers and healthcare providers.

“The most important consideration in granting a Magical Moment is the impact that the wish will have on their lives,” Schrader said. “In granting each Magical Moment, we aim to craft a memorable experience that will not only bring joy, but also restore hope and encouragement.”

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