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MAKING A MARK: Virginia Beach teen uses voice for others with cleft conditions

Jackson Doane was born with a cleft lip and palate. At 17 years old, he's now a voice for people with similar conditions worldwide.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — 17-year-old Jackson Doane knows firsthand the difference cleft surgery and care can make.

"I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and cleft palate," said Doane. "I've had 11 surgeries throughout my lifetime."

Now, he's using his story to make a difference with Operation Smile.

"The first time I spoke for Operation Smile, or even spoke about my journey publicly, was at the 2019 International Student Leadership Conference," said Doane. "It's given me a platform to speak as if I was a patient, and that's why my voice for Operation Smile is valuable because I can humanize the patients."

As an ambassador for the nonprofit, Jackson helps lead the charge for advocacy and awareness.

"I've been involved with the F.C. Operation Smile Club since the day I became a freshman at First Colonial High School. And this year, I was the club president," Doane said.

That comes with initiatives of its own.

"We have adopted these plaster dolphins... All the money goes straight to surgeries," said Doane. "One initiative that Operation Smile has that I was one of the founding members of is called 'Cleft Connect' where students all over the world born with cleft conditions meet."

Doane said he's inspired to help kids with cleft conditions in impoverished areas access the treatment they need.

"I've grown up in an environment very giving with my parents," said Doane. "It's been a value of ours to make sure that when people don't have, and we do have, that we can give to people."

He hopes his story inspires others to help change lives around the world.

"What seems like these little, small steps, these small steps add up to big things," said Doane. "If you have the platform, if you have the time, money, or talent, then you should utilize that to help other people."

Doane is scheduled to speak at the Operation Smile International Student Leadership Conference next week in Miami, Florida.

You can find ways to support Operation Smile here.

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