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Kupchella treks to Peru for Smile Network

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Photo: Rick Kupchella at Machu Picchu in Peru in 2006

I'm embarking upon an all-out adventure next week. My daughter, Elizabeth, and I are hiking the Inca Trail in Peru as part of a program with Smile Network International.

In short, “Smile” is a Minnesota-based humanitarian organization dedicated to the repair of cleft lips and palates of children in developing countries around the globe. In the last nine years, we’ve conducted 50 missions at 24 surgical sites around the world, performing surgeries on 2,500 children.

The trek will literally retrace the steps of the Incas over four days at elevations from 7,000 to nearly 14,000 feet. It ultimately concludes at the Gate of the Sun and onto the sacred grounds of Machu Picchu. It will be a spectacular – arduous – and transformative experience.

In the last couple days of our trip, we'll join the medical team in Lima as they begin the process of screening children at the primary children’s hospital in Peru to see the results of our effort in person. We'll witness and experience the life-changing surgeries.

Last year, I took on the role of Chairman of the Board at Smile Network International. I’ve long admired this group both for what they do and how they do it.

The principal work, of course, is the medical relief effort itself. With these surgeries (costing about $500, and accomplished in little more than 45 minutes) they change the life of a child forever. That’s a simple and profound fact.

Smile also has a tradition of offering its donors and medical teams signature experiences in faraway and exotic locations, in an effort to connect the public with its mission. In Peru – it’s the Inca Trail. In Tanzania – it’s Kilimanjaro. We have also done custom trips in Ecuador (horseback riding in the Ecuadorian Highlands), Mexico (bike riding in the Badlands), and treks to the Himalayan Mountains.

As a participant in this particular mission, I'm reaching out to my own network – explaining the work of Smile Network and encouraging folks to donate in honor of our trek, with all the donations going toward the mission. It is not uncommon for our Adventure Travel participants to raise 100 percent of the money for the adjacent medical mission. One hundred percent of all donations pay for the surgeries of the children. And here's where I need your help.

Elizabeth and I are trying to raise $5,000 for Smile Network International – by Monday! God help us! And YOU TOO if you can?!

And hey, while we recognize this is not something every person has the time or money to participate in – for those who can find a way to plan for it, keep an eye on Smile Network for future destinations. It promises to be the trip of a lifetime.

Smile Network and I thank you sincerely for considering a donation.

Check out more: Kupchella Smiles 2013 and Smile Network.


P.S. Stay tuned to BringMeTheNews for updates. I'll be filing from the trek (may be time delayed depending on connectivity) but I plan to publish a daily log and send photos of kids from the mission at Lima.

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