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Raleigh 10-year-old born with cleft palate writes, illustrates her own book to help others

Posted September 16, 2021 2:46 p.m. EDT
Updated September 16, 2021 4:57 p.m. EDT

— Raleigh 10-year-old born with cleft palate writes, illustrates her own book to help others

A 10-year-old Raleigh girl is now a published author and illustrator and getting ready for her first book signing.

Violet Ake documented her own experience with extensive medical treatments for cleft palate and lip.

Her personal story began about nine years ago in China when a Raleigh couple came to adopt her.

"We knew it was kind of in God’s plan for Violet to be a part of our family," said Tripp Ake, her adoptive father.

He and his wife were matched with Violet through an adoption process before her first birthday. They met her and took her home when she was 17 months old.

Violet was born with a split, or cleft, in her lip and in the roof of her mouth.

The Akes said they knew that Duke University Hospital was among the best places to provide the team care she would need as she grew. Typically, that care continues until the age of 18.

"Untreated, there are so many other problems with eating, nutrition, development and speech and hearing," said Tripp Ake.

After the initial medical visit, young patients in the program return annually for "Team Days" when a multidisciplinary group of surgeons, physicians, therapists, psychologists, audiologists and other care providers meet with the patients and their families.

During some of those annual visits, some people at Duke took notice of Violet’s crayon drawings.

"Let me tell you, my first drawings were kind of like space aliens," she said.

As Violet’s drawings improved, one care coordinator suggested that she write and illustrate her own book as a way of helping other children facing the same surgeries and treatments.

She didn’t hesitate. The young author and illustrator was determined to make her book a "must have" for other families like hers.

"I want them to feel comfortable and not be like super, super worried, and I want them to feel a little bit more prepared," she said.

She added that she wanted all the proceeds from the book to go to Duke’s "Smile Together Foundation" to help provide equal opportunity for other children with cleft and craniofacial needs.

"I’m not very much wanting to be rich. I want to be like a normal fifth grader," Violet said.

The Akes said they plan to have a book signing outdoors at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh after their morning service on Sunday.

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