KEARNEY, Neb. -- Two local moms are on a mission to educate Nebraskans about a birth defect impacting children across the state.
The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention says each year more than 2,000 babies are born with a cleft palate and more than 4,000 with a cleft lip.
Sara Tappan and Miranda Jones are trying to raise awareness by educating the public. The two mothers met on the Kearney Exchange Facebook page, but on Sunday afternoon they both met in person at Yanney Park.
"Only cleft moms will understand how much you love the cleft smile,” Tappan said.
Tappan’s daughter Nova-Lee has a complete bilateral cleft lip palate.
"A lot of people automatically see people or a baby with a cleft and think they have all these things wrong where most clefts like 60 percent of clefts are isolated,” said Tappan.
With raising awareness, she wants to help other moms who are going through the same thing, just like she’s helping new-mom Miranda Jones.
"Tells me everything is going to be OK for surgeries. There's nothing that you should worry about a lot of kids go through this surgery,” said Jones.
Dr. Jason Miller, a doctor who specializes in this area said children are born with clefts for a variety of reasons.
"This happens, the face doesn't develop properly. It can also be from certain genetic conditions,” said Miller.
And often times, he said it can be a struggle for parents.
"I was caught by surprise, we didn't know at all that he had a cleft lip or palate so after I gave birth to him and the doctor explained to us that he did have it, I initially did start crying,” said Jones.
Tappan said she wants to tell mothers and fathers that it is going to be okay and there is no need to worry about anything.
"It’s going to be okay and that's why I wanted to reach out to her, I didn't want her to feel alone because she’s not alone - there’s so many of us,” said Tappan.
With any parent, Tappan said with the medical visits and surgeries it will be a long process.
She said she just wants to reach out to parents and say that you are not alone and there are doctors who can help you.