Smile Train is a generally well-regarded charity that provides medical services for children with cleft palates. But recently they offended a lot of people with a terribly thought-out charity mailer that compared children with cleft palates to a Halloween nightmare, and a lot of people were furious.

According to Today, Smile Train sent out charity mailers asking for donations recently. Texas mom Kristen Carr has been a passionate supporter of Smile Train for years. This time, however, she was disgusted. The mailer said “What if every day felt like Halloween?” next to a picture of a sad-looking little boy with a cleft palate. Inside, the mailer featured more photos of children with cleft palates and said, “You have the power to put an end to their nightmare.”

cleft palate mailer

Image: Facebook/Kristen Carr

“I am, quite simply, appalled. I am disappointed, and I am also furious. The clear connotation is that, pre-surgery, cleft-affected children are akin to monsters,” Carr wrote on Facebook. “I am not going to waste my time explaining that every single parent of a cleft-affected child falls head over heels in love with their child’s original “wide smile.” Instead, I’ll just share this post with a group of over 9000 moms of cleft-affected kids, and they can tell you their stories for themselves.”

Three years ago, Carr’s son was born with a biltaeral cleft lip and palate. She says her family has donated nearly $10,000 to Smile Train since then, and she has been a vocal supporter and fundraiser for them.

Other parents agreed that the mailer was hurtful.

We have supported #smiletrain in the past because the surgeries they provide to children who need them are absolutely…

Posted by Cleftopedia on Friday, October 13, 2017

One mother told Today that she was devastated during an anatomy scan to learn her baby would have a cleft palate. She says her fears were largely because of stigmas against children with cleft palates, which images and rhetoric like this contribute to.

“To be clear, this isn’t the kind of ‘mistake’ that an apology can fix,” Carr said. “It’s not a spelling error. Many, many people in your organization saw and approved this mailing before it was sent. This is a representation of your sentiments toward cleft-affected children, and you will not receive another donated penny from us.”

Smile Train does great work for a lot of kids. But it is astonishing that anybody working at a charity to help cleft-afflicted children would design or approve this mailer. How did it possibly get into production and into people’s mailboxes?

Smile Train has apologized for the Halloween-themed mailers. They say they’ve pulled the campaign and will be “revising our internal review process” to make sure something so tone-deaf and insensitive never happens again.

What do you think of this apology? Let us know in the comments.

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(Image: Facebook / Smile Train)