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A 9-year-old is collecting bottles to cover surgical costs for kids with cleft palates

Abigail Moen says she wants to be a surgeon when she grows up. By Bethany Hines, CNN

(CNN) -- Abigail Moen, 9, didn't know what a cleft lip or cleft palate was until she watched a commercial that brought tears to her eyes.

"I was sad," the fourth-grader from Eastchester, New York, told CNN. "I said, 'Daddy, can we do something? I want to help those kids.'"

The commercial detailed the hardships kids born with the cleft condition deal with --- difficulties eating, talking and even smiling.

"We found the cost of operations and the blankets and the teddy bears," Abigail explained.

The organization profiled in the commercial, Operation Smile, offers free surgical care for kids with cleft lips and cleft palates around the world.

"The surgeries cost as little as $240," Nicole Bell, Operation Smile's director of public relations, told CNN.

Abigail started collecting bottles to help cover the surgical care costs.

That was more than a year ago, and Abigail is still collecting bottles. So far, she's cashed in nearly 7,000 bottles---enough to cover at least one surgery. "One bottle is worth 5 cents. We cash in a cart full of plastic and glass bottles or cans twice a week," Erik Moen, Abigail's dad, told CNN.

Abigail starts a movement

The recyclable items come from the Moen's home, their jobs and even the next-door neighbor.

"The neighbor brings a bag every recycle day and she told one of her friends," Erik Moen explained.

But Abigail doesn't plan to stop there; she's planning a bake sale to bring in more money to help cover the surgeries.

"I have more ideas," Abigail said.

And when she's not helping save kids' smiles, Abigail keeps busy with other hobbies.

"I like playing video games. I like playing piano. I play trumpet. Ballet. Soccer. Volleyball. Arts and crafts."

Abigail's kindess

Abiigail's persistence and eagerness to make a difference doesn't surprise her parents.

"We are from Ecuador. She has seen Third World countries and I show her videos of other kids who are not as fortunate. She always says that she wants to help the poor. She has a very good heart," her mom, Alexandra Moen, told CNN.

She wants to be a surgeon when she grows up to continue helping those with various health conditions.

"She is very good hearted," her father said. "When she sets her mind to something nothing is going to stop her."

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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