MIAMI (CBS4) – For many parents, one of the happiest moments is the first time they see their baby.  But for Monica Viveros, she remembers her world being turned upside down.

“I saw pair of big, black eyes and then cleft so it was shocking,” said Viveros.

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Monica and her husband had no idea that their little girl, Samantha, would be born with a cleft lip and palate.

Cleft lips and/or palates are one of the most common birth defects in the United States occurring in about one or two of every thousand babies born in the U.S.  A cleft occurs when parts of the lip or palate don’t completely fuse.  While it may be the result of poor nutrition or genetic or environmental factors, the cause is usually unknown.

“The child’s appearance is affected.  The hearing is affected and the family is affected,” said Dr. Seth Thaller, Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at University of Miami.

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Over the years, Dr. Thaller has operated on Samantha nine times.  In addition to the surgeries, Samantha will also have years of speech therapy.

But now, she said, she feels like a normal teenage girl.

“There are days it looks like I haven’t been born with it,” Samantha said.

“Every time she’s had surgeries everything she’s accomplished more meaningful to us,” said Monica Viveros.

Samantha and her family will be taking part in a 5K Run on Sunday, June 10th to raise funds for the University of Miami to help other families with clefts.  It’s called Miles for Smiles and is being held in Aventura.

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To register go to