Students bring smile to Stella Maris


By Aaron Jahn

At their monthly assembly, Rachel Jones and Nicole Bechard, grade 8 students at Stella Maris, presented a cheque for $535 they had raised to donate to Operation Smile on behalf of their teacher Eleonora Vitella and her family.

Vitella and her husband Onoril and their two children, Francesco and Micayla were touched by the efforts of the students, who came up with the idea after discovering that Micayla was born with a cleft palate and that the Vitella’s had gone to great heights to raise money for Operation Smile, a group of doctors that volunteers their time to operate on people with cleft lips and palates across the world.

“Unexpected, working at the school and I didn’t know.  I know the kids were really excited, I had told them about how we did the CN Tower edge walk back at the end of October.   So I showed them the video and they were so excited right away they were asking ‘miss is there anything we can do to help out?’  and I said you know, just bring awareness to it and we left it at that and I’m just totally surprised that they did this,” said Mrs. Vitella.    “They could have taken this money and put it towards their graduation trip and instead they gave it to someone else.  We’ve been through a lot in the past couple of years with Micayla, she still has a long road ahead.   A smile is a thousand words and kids get judged on it every day, the first thing we look at is facial features.  The fact that they raised this much money to go to kids that can’t afford it, we’re just so excited, it’s amazing.”


Stella Maris Grade 8 students Rachel Jones (2nd from right) and Nicole Bechard (far right) present a cheque for $535 to the Vitella Family (L to R) Onoril, Micayla, Francesco and Eleonora, to be donated to Operation Smile to pay for cleft lip and palate surgeries in other parts of the world. Micayla Vitella was born with a cleft palate and has already undergone 3 surgeries before her second birthday. She will have to have surgery to correct the issue until she is 22.

Jones said that this was a difficult, but rewarding undertaking for them as students and they wanted to do it to help any way they could.

“Well it took nights and days to get the schedule and everything and it was hard because we didn’t have a teacher to help us.  They just kind of give us the ok, so it was a really big step up in responsibility for us and we were willing to take it,” said Jones.  “I went on their website and it told us that there are kids out there that need help, they need to get surgery but they don’t have the money for it.  We wanted to raise money for them to be able to do it, because everyone should be able to smile.”

Bechard said they had aimed a little higher, but they were very pleased with the results.

“Well we were supposed to do more, do toonies so we could raise more money, but it didn’t work out so we went with the loonie and were still able to raise a lot of money and we just wanted to help her out (Mrs. Vitella) because we felt bad and wanted to cheer them up,” said Bechard.  “I was really happy that we got that much.”

According to the Vitella Family, the kids raised enough money to pay for two operations, perhaps as much as three.  Because the doctors and nurses involved donate their time, surgeries only cost as much as supplies, a number that can be as low as $240 a surgery.  Onoril Vitella says that he was thrilled with the efforts put forth by the two young women for such a great cause.

“I’m very, very happy.  Opoeration smile is a great foundation, they raise money for people who are less fortunate across the world and it’s something as simple as parents praying every day and night so their kids can look normal,” said Vitella.  “These kids here are unselfish, they raised money so now parents like us with a daughter like Micayla they can smile their kids can be normal and have a nice smile.”

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