Fresh Start commits to long-term, comprehensive restorative surgery and care with every single one of our children, no matter how long the process takes, whether it’s months or several years.
To help accomplish that goal of transforming lives of children, we host six Surgery Weekends annually where volunteer medical professionals transform the lives of children with deformities through reconstructive surgery. Dental Clinics serve children requiring more complex dental procedures outside the scope of a Surgery Weekend. Dental Clinics are held 13-14 times annually and serve 15-30 children at each Clinic with services ranging from restorative and orthodontic work done for children with cleft lip or palate to fillings and more basic care.
Fresh Start’s founder, the late Dr. Dennis Nigro, a renowned San Diego plastic surgeon, traveled to remote areas to provide reconstructive surgeries at the beginning of his career. While abroad, he witnessed sub-optimal operating rooms and procedures, so in the late 1980’s he began to bring children with physical deformities from around the world and the local community to his own office in San Diego to receive a higher level of long-term care. Dr. Nigro recognized that there was a whole population of people, especially children, who suffered from correctable conditions but could not afford the medical attention they needed.
In 1991, Dr. Nigro founded and incorporated Fresh Start Surgical Gifts –with the majority of care still provided within his own office but with more of a focus on local, San Diego children. In 2001, Fresh Start received a large gift in support of its mission – from this, we established a separate Foundation, the Fresh Start Surgical Gifts Foundation, that provides at least 4% of its invested funds each year to support overhead and administrative costs, allowing 100% of every donation to go toward the Medical Program and enabling Fresh Start to become a sustainable organization. Fresh Start began to expand, and, in 2009, opened the Fresh Start Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, which enables us to treat complex conditions and provide care more frequently. Fresh Start has expanded nationally. In 2014, Fresh Start expanded to Chicago in partnership with The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital. In 2022 we partnered with Sanford Health in the mid-west. In 2023, Fresh Start will expand to San Antonio, Texas, in partnership with University Health.