A smile – a universal welcome that triggers not only dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin spikes in your brain, but is a feel good communication that says “Hi” or “I like that.” But what if those 42 facial muscles didn’t activate when you smiled? What if you couldn’t smile or move your face at all? That is the reality for 9 year old Larkin.
Larkin was born 3 months early and weighed only 2 pounds. After 9 months in the NICU at Sick Kids Hospital Larkin was diagnosed with Moebius Syndrome, an extremely rare congenital neurological disorder which is characterized by facial paralysis and the inability to move the eyes from side to side. Most people born with Moebius Syndrome have complete facial paralysis and cannot close their eyes or form facial expressions.
When Larkin was 2 years old she told us about her desire to have a smile. At a very young age she noticed that she was visibly different from her friends, and that her speech wasn’t as clear as theirs. Larkin would often use her fingers to push the corners of her month up to give herself a smile. In 2016 at the age of 6, Larkin underwent two Facial Reanimation surgeries pioneered by the very doctor who originally diagnosed her.
Larkin still shy’s away from large crowds, and sometimes socializing with other children is hard for her because of her speech, and because she has been told by other children that she looks different.
Camp Trailblazers gave Larkin the ability to spend a week with children who have faced, or are facing the same social issues she faces everyday. Camp Trailblazers gives children a safe place to just be who they are, and not worry about their facial differences. Camp gives children the power to talk to others about their worries, their strengths and to develop long term friendships with others who understand.
–By Rhonda, Larkin’s mom