Schiller, Merrill and Southern Select Aiding Operation Smile
Sometimes, a simple change is all it takes to start something big. For Charlotte Hounds midfielder Chris Schiller, that minor shift happened this year, when Johnson and Johnson – where he works when he's not prowling the sidelines for the Hounds or trying to keep up with newborn twins at home – partnered with Operation Smile for its annual charitable giving push.
"Every year [Johnson and Johnson] partners with somebody, and this year it was Operation Smile," says Schiller, who won gold with Team USA at the 2010 FIL World Championships in Manchester, England. "It just struck a chord with me."
Operation Smile is a charity that focuses on children in the developing world who are born with cleft palate, a congenital deformity which occurs when the two plates that form the hard palate (roof of the mouth) aren't joined, leaving a gap in the mouth and often in the upper lip. A relatively inexpensive surgery at a young age can solve the problem immediately, but untreated, the non-separated oral and nasal cavities can cause health issues and even death, as well as harsh social stigmas for children who are able to survive.
So Schiller is doing something about it.
Through the Hounds, Schiller recently announced a fundraising program for Operation Smile, Johnson and Johnson and the camp that he co-operates in the Carolinas with Hamilton Nationals defenseman Brodie Merrill, Southern Select Lacrosse. The goal is to raise $5,000 towards the program, which Southern Select will match. Then Johnson and Johnson has promised a 2-for-1 match of that total, meaning if they make their goal, $30,000 will make its way to Operation Smile's inbox.
"We've been successful [at Southern Select], so it's just a good way to give back and help out," says Schiller. "Once you start having children of your own, it really touches you because you feel so lucky to have healthy kids, and when you see other kids, it's like "What can we do to help them?"
The secondary level of Schiller and Merrill's gesture is that if the goal is met, Southern Select will also be donating 125 lacrosse sticks to children involved in the program, which Merrill and Schiller will accompany to the location their donation is to be deployed, helping the medical staff as well as showing the affected children the game.
"It's about growing the game too," said Schiller. "These children obviously don't know lacrosse, so there's not a better way to go out and show these kids a new game. Sports bring people together. I feel as though if we have an opportunity to teach them the game of lacrosse and help them with their health, sign us up."
Schiller is in his first season with Charlotte, having played from 2004-08 with the Rochester Rattlers, including being a member of their 2008 Steinfeld Cup-winning squad. After that season, he continued playing with the Rochester Knighthawks through 2012 in addition to his duties on Team USA in 2010.
For those interested in supporting this cause, the fundraising effort will continue through the end of the year. Donation link is available here: