MUNSTER | Two Munster children have received the cosmetic surgeries they needed thanks to a new Chicago-based organization that provides procedures to kids in need.

Debby Harris and her husband, Jim, have fostered numerous medically fragile children over the years, and have adopted several of them.

Thanks to Fresh Start Caring for Kids Foundation in Chicago, a teenage foster son, Jay, received a procedure on a cleft lip and palate, and their 8-year-old foster son, Michael, had cosmetic surgery for a scar on his scalp.

Because foster children receive health insurance through Indiana Medicaid, the cosmetic surgeries would not otherwise have been covered by health insurance.

“We don’t want our kids to be known as the kid with the hole in his face, and the kid with the scar on his head,” Debby Harris said. “A child’s appearance is really important.”

Fresh Start Caring For Kids Foundation in Chicago held its first surgery day in June, with a second date in October. The organization has a partnership with The Plastic Surgery Foundation and is an offshoot of San Diego-based Fresh Start Surgical Gifts. The organization’s mission is to transform the lives of disadvantaged infants, children and teens with physical deformities caused by birth defects, accidents, abuse or disease.

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The Chicago Surgery Weekends took place at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital. In the two weekends, 12 children were helped, including the Harris’ children. The next surgery date will be in February.

Utica Gray, the Chicago regional director for Fresh Start Caring for Kids Foundation, said the organization provides long-term, comprehensive care for complex conditions.

“Not only does Fresh Start Caring for Kids Foundation provide quality medical care to uninsured and under-insured children in need at absolutely no cost to their families, but our organization also covers the transportation costs to enable the patients to get to and from their surgery weekend appointments as well as the cost of lodging and food during surgery weekends,” Gray said.

“What sets us apart from most other nonprofit organizations is the fact that 100 percent of each donation directly benefits patients.”

Harris said the organization has been incredible with her family.

“The doctors and nurses donate all their time, and having these doctors close that can do these surgeries makes a huge difference,” she said.

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