OCHS Freshman to Host Smile Train Fundraiser

OCHS Freshman to Host Smile Train Fundraiser

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Rob Malfitano, of Ocean City, pictured at the 2021 Memorial Day ceremony, hopes to raise a lot of money for Smile Train.

By MADDY VITALE

Rob Malfitano wants other children to get the chance to experience all of the wonderful things he has in life. The Ocean City High School freshman skateboards, surfs, juggles and is a Life Scout working to become an Eagle Scout.

None of it would have been possible had it not been for Smile Train, a nonprofit organization and charity that provides corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates. Rob, 14, was born with a cleft palate. A cleft palate, which is an opening in the roof of the mouth and the lip that can cause difficulty eating and speaking.

“I have had over 21 surgeries,” Rob said in an interview Monday. “Smile Train has changed the course of my life because of the surgeries. It was so hard to eat, let alone speak and breathe. Now I skateboard. I juggle. I am working on becoming an Eagle Scout.”

So, to give back to a cause that helped make his life what it is today, Rob and his family are hosting a Pinball Tournament on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Jilly’s Arcade on the Boardwalk to benefit Smile Train.

Rob was just a baby when he had his surgery from Smile Train while he was in an orphanage in China. He was 1 1/ 2 years old. A year later, he was adopted by Jenny and Vince Malfitano, of Ocean City, and he came to the United States.

Vince Malfitano explained how much Smile Train means, not just to Rob, but to the entire family. Rob is the youngest of five children.

“Smile Train has helped us as a family,” Malfitano said. “Smile Train is a completely volunteer organization. All of the donations go to the children’s operations.”

Rob Malfitano, left, with pinball tournament champion in 2020, Jack Wheeler. (Photo courtesy of the Malfitano family)

Malfitano said that the family is so appreciative of Jilly’s and all of the support the co-owner, Jody Levchuk, an Ocean City Councilman, has given to the fundraiser.

Malfitano added, “The kids love Jilly’s arcade and they love the games so everybody has a good time.”

Rob has been organizing fundraisers since he was in the second grade to raise funds for the cause.

He said he has so much fun at the tournaments and the other kids do too.

Like last year’s tournament at Jilly’s Arcade, kids will compete for the title of pinball champion at the arcade, located at 11th and Boardwalk.

“We hope we will have the same number of people show up,” Rob said. “We have a good idea of what to expect. Jody is awesome for taking the time to help make this happen and if I was old enough, I would elect him.”

Last year’s fundraiser raised $1,000 for Smile Train. This year, the hope is that even more money for the great cause.

Levchuk said when he learned that Rob and his family wanted to host another Smile Train fundraiser at the arcade, he was thrilled.

“It’s really great to see young leaders in our community like Rob,” Levchuk said. “Jilly’s is delighted to be a part of his fundraiser success for such a great cause.”

Rob has been holding benefits such as the pinball competition to raise money for Smile Train since he was in the second grade.

“I would like to do fundraisers every year to help Smile Train,” Rob said. “They did so much for me.”

Jilly’s Arcade is located at 1168 Boardwalk.