Lucy Hale has spent the past seven years in the limelight as Aria Montgomery on Pretty Little Liars, but it turns out there’s a lot we don’t know about this big-hearted star. After Hale asked for donations to the charity Smile Train in lieu of birthday gifts this year, she took the partnership a step further with a trip to Mexico City, and InStyle got a look inside her “life-changing” journey.
The PLL star traveled with Smile Train, an international children’s charity that funds corrective cleft lip and palate surgeries, and quickly learned that there’s so much more to it than a simple 45-minute procedure. “It’s actually pretty much a lifelong journey,” she told us. After the initial lip surgery, patients have a second palate surgery and then endure a procedure that implants a bone graft from their hip into their mouth.
The healing process doesn’t end there. “Then there’s speech therapy and there’s counseling and dental work. It’s sort of ongoing, and so what Smile Train does is they provide all the financial support for these families and these patients, which is pretty amazing because it’s not just one and then they’re done. It’s a lifelong thing.”
VIDEO: Inside Lucy Hale’s “Life-Changing” Trip to Mexico City with Smile Train
While she's never worked in medicine, the 27-year-old told InStyle she's had a lifelong interest in children born with clefts. She attributes the fascination with surgeries to her mom, a labor and delivery nurse. “I just always would research it and kind of just was fascinated at how it all worked and how these kids were born this way,” she said. “I’m the girl that watches surgery videos online and documentaries. I just am fascinated by the work that doctors can do.”
From her curiosity stemmed an intense desire to get involved. After she began fundraising for Smile Train on social media, the charity proposed a trip and Hale was “immediately on-board.” In her three-day journey to Mexico City, she met with families preparing for surgery, visited pediatric hospitals, spoke with former patients, and even witnessed a surgery first-hand.
Keep scrolling for an exclusive look inside her trip, and watch the heartwarming video above to see the action for yourself.