Deborah Pack is the preschool teacher we all wish our kids could have and that we wish we had when we were young. In her classroom in Edgerton, Missouri (just outside Kansas City), she teaches kids to accept those who are different through animals. Since 2003, she has been bringing animals – including goats, ducks and a deaf dog – into her classroom.
Children born with clefts among the most vulnerable in the world, especially in developing countries. Not only do they often feel different, but they also face physical difficulties with eating, breathing and speaking. In order to raise awareness of these issues, Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft charity, has enlisted a new furry Ambassador – Stanley, the English bulldog.
When Stanley’s original owner heard about Pack’s work, they contacted her about adopting him and his brother Oliver, who was deaf. Pack took both boys in without question.
“I took Stanley and Oliver both home and thought both could teach children about acceptance, Stanley on the outside and Oliver on the inside,” Pack says.
Stanley’s Special Gift
Stanley was born with a debilitating bilateral cleft lip and palate. When he was adopted, his cleft palate prevented him from lying down because he had trouble breathing properly. Stanley’s owner, a preschool teacher, decided to have his cleft palate repaired, but not his bilateral cleft lip because she wanted to show children that is was okay to be different. Since his palate surgery, Stanley and his owner have used him as a platform to advocate for acceptance of children and animals born with disabilities, especially children with clefts.
In the classroom, Pack’s students have worked one-on-one with Stanley by helping him reach goals like potty training, obedience skills and motor skills, such as doggie puzzles. The students saw that he had trouble due to his birth defects and instead of judging him or rejecting him, they encouraged him until he accomplished the task or if he was unable to, they would say, “Good try Stanley”.
In May 2015, Pack contacted Smile Train, an international children’s charity that helps provide training, funding, and resources to empower local doctors in 85+ developing countries to provide 100% free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care in their own communities. She told them about Stanley and the work he does in the community to teach small children about acceptance and to help put a stop to bullying.
Smile Train was touched by Stanley’s story and made him an ambassador. For example, the below images are from a fundraiser Stanley did. The Kissing Booth helped Stanley raise funding for children who need cleft repair surgery. This initiative helped to show that animals like Stanley are valuable members to families and the community.
Stanley and Smile Train continue to work together to find ways for Stanley to reach out to children all around the world. The goal is to change a child’s life and to teach acceptance by showing that it is okay to be different.
Every Dog Has His Day
…or in the case of Stanley, two days! Stand Up for Stanley Day is a day to raise awareness for animals who have clefts. It began in Smithville, Missouri when Pack reached out to the mayor, who adopted April 21, 2015 as Stand Up for Stanley Day. Three other local cities also adopted the awareness day. Next, she reached out to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who declared March 24, 2015 as a statewide Stand Up for Stanley Day.
To learn more about Stanley and how you can help, follow him on Facebook.
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