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WonderKids event rocks Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness Month

Written By: Andi Atkinson, UT Physicians | Updated: July 19, 2022
Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness

Children gladly smile for the camera at the WonderKids event. (Photo by Elif Soares, UT Physicians)

The Texas Cleft-Craniofacial Team at UT Physicians held its 4th Annual WonderKids Workshop and Concert on July 15 at the UTHealth Houston campus. Inspired by the movie “Wonder,” the event celebrates children who overcome cleft and other craniofacial conditions during National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month.

Several Wonder-ful patients of the craniofacial practice spent the day engaging in recreational and educational activities and making friends. The participants and volunteers were all given a “Choose Kind” t-shirt.

WonderKid Adley making name tags for her siblings. Photo by Elif Soares, UT Physicians.

“My favorite part was making a friend named Bob,” said 9-year-old Adley Neel of Waller, Texas.

Adley, a bilateral cleft lip and palate patient, literally made her friend Bob out of cling wrap with the help of teammates.

Other activities included watching clips from “Wonder” and taking a pledge of kindness, meeting Penny, the therapy dog, and learning cavity prevention from dentist Paloma R. Nguyen, DMD, MS. 

Another highlight was 16-year-old guest speaker Tanisi Tripathi of Houston. Tripathi, a cleft palate patient, not only volunteered for the event but agreed to tell her story.

“I told them when I was young, a lot of kids and parents didn’t know what I had, and I felt alone,” Tripathi said. “I let them know they are not alone. I also told them to take any challenges and turn them into an opportunity to do something you love or care about.”

Tripathi will graduate high school in 2024 and will continue her education until she becomes a craniofacial surgeon. She hopes to attend McGovern Medical School for her training.

(left to right) Phuong D. Nguyen, MD; Mark J. Dannenbaum, MD; and Soham Roy, MD, jam together for the annual WonderKids event. Photo by Elif Soares, UT Physicians.

At the end of the day, the WonderKids, parents, and volunteers enjoyed a pizza dinner and a special concert of 80s and 90s rock hits performed by a trio of in-house talent.

The physicians/musicians who rocked the house were: singer and guitarist Phuong D. Nguyen, MD, pediatric plastic surgeon with UT Physicians Pediatric Surgery – Texas Medical Center; associate professor and chief of Pediatric Plastic Surgery; and director of Craniofacial Surgery in the Division of Plastic Surgery in the Department of Surgery at McGovern Medical School; drummer Mark J. Dannenbaum, MD, assistant professor in the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School; and singer and bassist Soham Roy, MD, former director of pediatric otolaryngology at UT Physicians and former professor and vice chair for Academic Affairs & Quality Chief of Pediatric ENT at McGovern Medical School.

Anna Samples, 26, of Houston, stopped by the event after she finished work to visit team members who changed her life.

Samples, a former cleft lip and palate patient, visited with her surgeon John F. Teichgraeber, MD, retired co-director of the Texas Cleft-Craniofacial Team, and nurse Irene “Leanne” Doringo, MSN, RN, former clinical care coordinator for the cleft-craniofacial team.

“My mother was volunteering at the event, and I just wanted to stop by and see what was going on,” Samples said. “I’m glad I was able to visit. I’ve known Dr. T since I was four.”

See all the rockin’ smiles from the WonderKids Workshop and Concert.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.