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UC Riverside Student Faces Physical and Emotional Challenges Head-on

Young woman prepares for 21st surgery for Treacher Collins Syndrome.

Riverside, CA, June 11, 2015 --( Lisa Encinas is an artist. She draws, writes, dances and sings—when not working toward her psychology degree at UC Riverside. In so many respects, Lisa is a typical, thriving college student—bright, funny and sweet—yet she confronts challenges few can imagine. “I was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome,” says 24 year-old Encinas.

TCS is a rare condition that affects bones and tissue in the face and is characterized by the absence of cheekbones. In Lisa’s case, a small mandible opening constricts the airway to her lungs, her ears are malformed, she is hearing impaired and, until recently, she had to rely on a feeding tube to eat. On top of these physical difficulties, Lisa has tolerated a lifetime hurtful stares because she looks different that most everyone else.

Lisa copes: “I learned from a very young age that appearance isn’t everything. It’s what’s in the heart that matters most, and mine is filled with strength, patience, tolerance, and love—love for my family and friends, and acceptance of those who stare, talk behind my back, or make fun of the way I look. Sure, the glances and occasional laughter sting, but I’m a happy person and I try not to let those things get to me.”

Lisa has also endured more than twenty surgeries to date and number 21—a major reconstruction of one of her ears—is set for June 18. This surgery, like most Lisa has undergone, is very expensive and not covered by insurance. Enter Santa Barbara-based, non-profit Look At Us Alliance which helps kids and young adults with craniofacial anomalies pay for otherwise out-of-reach medical care and surgeries.

Look At Us Alliance founder Rob Williams conceived of the organization in 2002, when his son Robert was born with TCS. Williams launched Look At Us in 2014 to help fund craniofacial surgeries, pay for medical devices and provide much needed information and emotional support to affected families. First year results have been stellar: Look At Us has provided 12 transformative surgeries and donated dozens of specialized hearing aids to children in California, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Australia.

Look At Us is working with Lisa to fund her $40,000 surgery next week. Lisa is overwhelmed by the impact Look At Us has had on her life and the lives of so many others facing similar challenges. “Honestly, I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am,” she says. With tears in her eyes, Lisa elaborates, “I’ve endured so much hardship, but Look At Us gives me real hope, real hope—finally, after so many years waiting, I can get my ear reconstructed and can look that much closer to ‘normal’…what an amazing blessing.”

To learn more about or talk with Lisa and learn more about the Look At Us Alliance, please visit the LAU website or contact Rob Williams as above.
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Look At Us Alliance
Rob Williams

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