Great Neck Teen’s Love of Sports Helps Kids in Need

Jared Ohebshalom, 17, is using his love of sports to bring big smiles to kids in need around the world.

A senior at Great Neck North High School in Nassau County, Long Island, Jared launched a sports-themed fundraiser last April for Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization that provides free reconstructive cleft surgery to areas of the world where it’s needed most. 

Cleft surgery is performed on those who were born with a cleft condition. A cleft is a gap in the mouth that didn't close during the early stages of pregnancy. 

Dubbed “The Smile Shot Challenge,” the virtual fundraiser challenges participants to post a video of their “best shot” from any sport, anything from basketball to tennis to soccer and more, to social media. After someone posts their best shot, they nominate three others to do the same. 

As a three-sport varsity athlete, Jared wanted to create a fundraiser that connected his passion for sports with his passion to help kids smile. He was also inspired by the ice bucket challenge that gained momentum on social media in 2014 to raise awareness about ALS. Jared wanted his Smile Shot video challenge to make an even closer connection between the physical challenge and the charity.

“Whenever you play sports, if you get a cool shot, you smile,” Jared says “Operation Smile helps people around the world who are born with cleft conditions to express the same reaction. This is a way to give back and for our community to share their best shots and have fun doing so.”

Organizing an In-Person Fundraiser for Operation Smile

Over the summer, Jared brought his community together for a basketball game in the Kings Point section of Great Neck. The challenge was similar to the game of “HORSE” but instead of getting a letter if a shot was missed, for Jared’s event, a player got a letter when they made a shot, and their opponent missed a shot. The goal was to win by spelling out the word “SMILE.”

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Between the ongoing virtual fundraiser and the one-day event, Jared has raised almost $4,000 through his GoFundMe page, which will help 14 children receive reconstructive cleft surgery through Operation Smile.  

It is estimated that a child is born with a cleft condition every three minutes, according to Operation Smile. Depending on the type and severity, a cleft condition can create severe health issues for a child if it's not treated.

Jared hopes others join in on the Smile Shot Challenge, even beyond Great Neck, to help support Operation Smile. 

“It's something that is so simple that could really go far,” Jared says. “Taking a 10-second video can change a kid's life.” 

For more information about cleft conditions or Operation Smile, visit or follow the organization on Facebook and Instagram