Tyler Olsen’s smile isn’t quite complete, but his braces should come off in about a year.
The 13-year-old can’t wait for that day.
Tyler, however, had to go through five surgeries in nine years to reconstruct a bilateral cleft palate. The surgeries and orthodontics were funded by the Children’s Miracle Network at Geisnger. He and his family attended the 5th annual Champagne Brunch and Silent Auction, an event that celebrates and raises funds for the network.
“They’re great,” Tyler, of State College, said. “They have a lot to give, and we want to give back to them.”
Tyler and his parents, Rich and Cindy, have been to about 20 fundraisers for the network this year to represent the miracles they perform.
“They truly do perform miracles,” Cindy Olsen said. “We do everything we can to spread awareness about what they do. When we get the invite, we know we’re going.”
Joseph DeSantis, who performed each of Olsen’s surgeries, was on hand at the event Sunday at the Nittany Lion Inn to speak about the network.
“This is everything I went to school for until I was 35 years old,” DeSantis said. “Seeing kids like (Tyler) grown up as young adults now, it really is a great privilege. I’ve gotten to watch Tyler come in every year from when he was a little kid running around everywhere to being a mature young adult. It makes my work worthwhile.”
Mike McMullen, a network spokesman, said about 50 people attended the event. He said it raises about $8,000 each year to benefit pediatric patients.
The network has raised over $5 billion since 1983 for 170 hospitals across North America.
The Olsens are planning their own event for sometime next spring.
They will attempt to break the world record for the largest shaving cream pie fight in an event meant to spread awareness about the network. They just need to find a location that will facilitate at least 816 participants to beat the 815-person record set by the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in 2013.
The Olsens also have the option of having one last surgery with DeSantis, but Tyler said he’ll skip it.
Tyler laughed at the thought.
“No, I think I’ve had enough,” he said.