My name is Kai Hale. In 2004, I was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I was placed in an orphanage shortly after being born because my birth parents, who are native to Kazakhstan, did not have the resources to care for my cleft palate and lip. Up until 2009, when I was adopted and came to the U.S, I only spoke Kazakh, and a small amount of sign language I had learned from the times my adoptive parents would come to visit.

At an early age, while living in the orphanage, I had one procedure to repair my cleft lip. After coming to the U.S. with my adoptive parents, I started going to the Duke Cleft and Cranoifacial Center. Over the span of 9 years with the Duke cleft team, I had cleft palate closure, bone graft, multiple surgeries for my ears, as well as numerous orthodontic procedures.

All these surgeries and procedures impeded my ability to enjoy a normal childhood. However, nothing gave me more normalcy than baseball because the first time I played was the first time I felt like I was free from the burdens of my cleft. Baseball not only helped me get through all those difficult years of communication challenges and medical procedures but has also taught me lessons that I have been able to use in other aspects of my life. One of those lessons is learning that without hard work I would not achieve my goals to be successful on the baseball field or in life. Just as I continue to spend hours every week working to improve my baseball skills, I also devote the same focus to my education.

As I look to finish my senior year and my second year at Durham Tech, I find myself reflecting on all I have overcome and accomplished. I have sustained a 4.37 GPA including my courses at Durham Tech and multiple honors courses at my high school all while playing high school baseball. Playing my last season of high school baseball will be extra special to me since it has helped me get through difficult times. I will continue my passion for baseball through a sports administration degree to one day become a collegiate-level baseball coach. I hope to inspire other children worldwide who are experiencing hardship that they can still achieve their dreams despite having a cleft lip and/or palate.

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