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Cochranite chosen as face of Alberta Children's Hospital Lottery

Cochrane's Anika Gibson-Craig has been chosed as the face of this year's Alberta Children's Hospital home lottery campaign. File Photo/Great West Newspapers

The smiling face of this year's Alberta Children's Hospital home lottery campaign is Cochrane's own Anika Gibson-Craig.

The Grade 7 RancheView student was honoured with the news at a public launch event held in the southeast Calgary community of Walden, at the Homes by Avi showhome that is the grand prize in this year's home lottery.

"People say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and I think a smile is," she the 13-year-old.

Gibson-Craig lives with a rare congenital disorder called Poland-Moebius, which has resulted in five surgeries at the Alberta Children's Hospital – most notably, the facial reanimation or "smile surgery" she received when she was eight years old at the hands of renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Rob Harrop.

"Poland" refers to the absence of her large left pectoral muscle, club left foot and underdeveloped left hand. "Moebius" refers to her facial paralysis and inability to move her eyes from side to side, due to her sixth and seventh cranial nerve impairment.

Both Poland and Moebius are rare syndromes that stand alone. It is even more rare when they present together – according to the United States National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, the estimated prevalence of those living with the two syndromes is one in 500,000. 

"We always knew there would be challenges, but that there would always be a way to adapt so Anika can do anything," said Gibson-Craig's father, Scott.

The annual lottery has been a major fundraiser for the children's hospital throughout the last 27 years, providing more than $29 million for ground-breaking initiatives that have helped the facility become a leader in national and international children's healthcare and research. This year's campaign is fundraising for surgery – a state of the art surgical microscope and an advanced video intubation system that will assist surgeons with highly complicated and intricate surgeries and constructions for children.

"Anika is a great example of a child who has benefited from incredible surgical innovation at the Alberta Children’s Hospital when her surgeon performed an intricate procedure – called ‘smile animation’ – to allow her to smile for the first time," said Liz Ballendine, vice-president of the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation.

She added Gibson-Craig's vivacious personality made her a perfect fit to be this year's face of the campaign.

"We want people to understand the stories and the bravery that goes on here," Ballendine said. "We're always amazed by the positive and upbeat nature of these kids...they meet everything head-on." 

Gibson-Craig has always been encouraged to lead with her heart and make her own decisions, according to her parents – and is eager to share her own story with the world.

"It's so fitting she had smile surgery because when she smiles, that just shows who she is," said her mother, Rose. "She's just as interested in learning about other peoples' stories as she is to tell her own."

Being chosen as the face of the campaign gives Gibson-Craig the ideal opportunity to share her story and help others, she said.

"I want to make a difference in the world, even if nobody sees me making a difference," Gibson-Craig said, adding she would like to one day work with children with special needs or developmental disabilities. 

To learn more about the campaign and Gibson-Craig's involvement, visit

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