A Columbus student’s senior project is dedicated to helping a friend, an 8-year-old Columbus girl who has endured numerous surgeries to correct a cleft lip/palate.

“Claire’s Journey: A Fundraiser for Claire Kidd” will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Whitecreek Lutheran School, 16270 S. County Road 300W featuring a free-will donation chili supper and a gift basket auction.

The gift baskets will be collections of items such as a family camping basket with a tent and outdoor gearĀ and a baking basket filled with cookbooks and kitchen ware.

Proceeds from the event will help Claire and her family with medical expenses for prior and future cleft palate surgeries, said Columbus East senior Madison Schlehuser, who is organizing the fundraiser. The Kidd family attends Whitecreek Lutheran Church along with the Schlehuser family.

“I’ve known Claire ever since she was born,” Schlehuser said of her young friend. “I’ve watched her grow up and watched her go through all of her surgeries. She is so courageous. And she’s very open about what she has to go through. She is a very strong little girl.”

Claire’s mother, Rachel Kidd, said she found out five months into her pregnancy with Claire, and her twin CJ, that Claire was having difficulties growing and doctors had found a facial deformity.

Although specialists in Indianapolis told the family they could elect to terminate the pregnancy with Claire, as there could be more birth defects that had not yet been detected, the family emphatically said, “Absolutely not,” and proceeded.

“We will take what God has provided us and we will do our best with what might lie ahead for us,” Rachel Kidd wrote to Madison and the Schlehuser family about the experience. “We were given some information about facial deformities, especially cleft lip/palate. We took all the information and studies and prayed.”

For more on this story, see Thursday’s Republic.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.