Five-year-old boy searches for a smile

MARIETTA, Ga. -- What is the value of a smile? Charles Perales believes he knows.

"A smile can form a friendship," he said. "A smile can introduce you to a new class. It's the smallest of things, and it's the biggest of things."

It's the kind of thing he would like to pass along to his son. Five-year-old Maddox Perales can do almost anything, but there's one thing he cannot do: smile.

"Everyone deserves a smile," says Maddox's mother, Danielle Templer, "and so I won't stop until my son has a smile on his face too."

Danielle and Charlie could not wait to welcome their first child into the world. But immediately after Maddox was born, they say, the doctor dropped him.

"I've been through a lot in the military," Perales said. "It was a lot different feeling when you see your son falling."

Soon after, Maddox was diagnosed with Moebius Syndrome, a facial paralysis that results from either direct trauma or genetics. It affects one in a million babies.

"[The doctor] told us pretty much that he'd never be able to smile," Templer said. "He would never be able to frown, and he wouldn't blink. I remember my therapist saying, 'Don't treat him like he's different.' So I treat him like there's nothing wrong."

For the most part, nothing is wrong. If his face cannot move, the rest of Maddox can't stay still. But Maddox's parents see a near-future of kindergarten, meaning interaction behind his family. They want their son armed with a smile.

They are using a GoFundMe page to raise money for facial reanimation surgery. It is not covered by insurance and costs $100,000.

And the result? According to Templer, "They'll be able to move and create that movement to appear a smile on his face."

"It's not the desire to make him smile," says Maddox's father. "Smiling is just something we do on the outside. It's the desire for him to be happy."


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