November 29, 2022
At age 15, Center Grove High School sophomore Veronica Salrin has already learned something many people struggle their whole lives to understand: The things that make us different can be our superpowers.
“I’m eccentric in a good way,” Veronica says. “I’m talkative, I’m loud, I’m quite passionate about things I like.”
Her parents, Mike and Shelley Salrin, noticed their daughter’s determination from the very beginning. Veronica was born in Oregon with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. “Everything that was supposed to be an issue wasn’t an issue,” says Shelley. Following surgeries, she says, “She just bounced right back almost like no big deal.”
The family later moved to Indiana, where Veronica receives care from Sunil Tholpady, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues with the Riley Cleft and Craniofacial Anomalies program. At age 9 Veronica began attending Camp About Face at Bradford Woods in Martinsville. Part of the Camp Riley program funded through Riley Children’s Foundation, it is designed for children with cleft and craniofacial differences.
“Until I went to camp, I literally had never met anyone else with a cleft or craniofacial disorder,” she says. “I know how important it is for me to realize I’m not alone.” Veronica dove into advocacy, speaking to media crews and donors about the value of camp, and putting together a support group at her school for kids with cleft and craniofacial differences. More recently, Veronica has also been diagnosed with autism, something she embraces and celebrates. “Raising awareness and support is so important to me,” she says.
Upon hearing that Veronica was selected to serve as a Riley Champion, Riley Cleft and Craniofacial program coordinator Caitlin Church said, “As a team member who is also personally affected by a cleft lip and palate, I’m beyond thrilled.” Church adds that having a craniofacial difference can be “an exercise in building resiliency and optimism, and Veronica is giving us all a master class on how to do that.” Her colleague Stacy Nance, a Riley nurse, calls Veronica a “shining star.” She adds, “Veronica will make herself and Riley proud in this role.”
“I’m not surprised she has excelled in the way she has,” says her father, Mike Salrin. “She does well in whatever she puts her mind to — she goes and gets it.”
Eager to “go and get” the most out of her role as a Riley Champion, Veronica is already sharing advice for others: “Self acceptance is hard, but you have to find a circle of people who are like you or accept you for who you ARE, not how you look or how you make them feel.”