Brynn's Smile Box helps with cleft lip, palate recovery - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Brynn's Smile Box helps with cleft lip, palate recovery

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

A Minnesota family that struggled to find a support system after their newborn was born with a cleft lip and palate is working to make connecting a bit easier so that other families can "find their smiles" once more.

Although most people think of it as a birth defect only seen in third-world countries, one out of every 700 babies born in the United States has a cleft lip and palate. Brynn Feidt was one of them, but at 11 months old, she can eat without any issue now.

"Before the surgery, when she would eat, it would come out her nose -- before she had her palate done," Arik Feidt recalled.

Whitney and Arik Feidt were surprised to find their newborn daughter had a cleft lip and palate, and adjusting to her feeding requirements was a challenge. In fact, it started with a syringe. Looking back, the couple said they had to take things one day at a time.

Although the staff at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare provided a huge amount of support to their family, the Feidts found that connecting with other families in similar situations was difficult.

"When we were put into the situation, we didn't know anybody," Whitney Feidt explained. "We were just thrown into it."

The Feidt family decided to do something about that, and they created Brynn's Smile Box Foundation as a way to get in touch with families going through similar surgeries and provide them with helpful tools.

"These are our smile boxes," Whitney Feidt demonstrated. "This box we created as a helpful tool to hold all the supplies."

Each box costs $10 to make and comes with simple essentials -- a scissors to cut the tape that pulls and helps reshape the area, a flashlight to look inside a baby's mouth, and a gift card for mom and dad to use at Gillette's café.

"It's a small thing that we are doing for them, but it's that little bit that makes them feel they are not alone," Whitney Feidt reflected.

So far, the Feidt family has delivered a handful of smile boxes to Gillette, and the hospital adds needed dental supplies too. It's a simple gesture, but the most important moments come when the Feidts meet the other families and can walk them through their own experience and answer any questions they may have.

"We can give them all the dental information in the world," Michelle Hosch explained. "We can't give them the parent information -- what happens in the middle of the night, how to prepare for surgery. Those are things that parents need to connect with."

In her 24 years of working with cleft lips and palates, Dr. Cheryl Cermin says no other family has stepped up quite like the Feidts.

"I give my hats off to Brynn's family," she said. "They not only created this idea but initiated it and preserved it to make it happen."

So far, the family has been able to raise more than $1,000 to go toward continuing the project. For more information or to help, check out Brynn's Smile Box on Facebook.

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