Born with a cleft lip, Mike Cheong knows what it’s like to be the butt of people’s jokes.
The 29 year old public relations consultant is grateful for his family’s financial and emotional support to help him through numerous procedures when he was a child.
He tells Our Better World that many cleft lip kids in Asia don’t have that kind of support. So he’s using his feet to help those kids smile, running the full Standard Chartered Marathon this year to raise funds so they can get the care he received.
How long have you been running competitively and why?
I’ve been running competitive races for the past five years, and to be honest it was purely just to look good, feel good, stay in shape.
All good reasons, no?
Well, after running competitively for two or three years, I realised it was pretty much just doing the same routine over and over again, and you know, it’s pretty much getting a medal for myself at the end of the race.
It was only in 2010 when I realised that, ‘hey there’s this opportunity to try to do something good, not just for myself but for someone else’. It was pretty interesting so I decided to have a look at it and I realised that there is a charity called Operation Smile that helps less fortunate children who are born with a cleft palate and give them proper treatment for their condition.
I myself am a cleft lip baby, but I was very fortunate to receive treatment. But there are many other children out there who are unable to receive that, and I wish to just raise awareness for their cause.
So I thought that instead of running for myself I could run for people who have suffered the same condition as me.
Did the running feel different?
It definitely felt different. I was running for a cause and it wasn’t just for myself anymore. When I hit that point where I really wanted to stop and I felt like giving up, knowing that I was running for someone else, knowing that I was running to raise awareness actually helped to encourage me to keep running and keep going.
I just reminded myself that there are other people who are, in a way, counting on me to raise awareness. There are people who are actually looking out to see whether I finish the race or not, and that’s an extra push for me.
What are you looking forward to at this year’s marathon?
I enjoy running, and I enjoy raising awareness for this cause. Being able to do that at this year’s StanChart Marathon is just the perfect mix for me.
I look forward to running well and finishing safe. There’s always this element of surprise; you never know if something will happen during the race.
Help Mike to put a smile on children’s faces through Operation Smile.