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SAN ANTONIO -- An innocent look. A precious laugh. Parents pray for these gifts of good health for their children. Eduardo Lopez wasn t so fortunate at birth, 13 months ago.

I didn t want to see his feet because I have never heard of such a condition or seen anything like it, said Christina Lopez, little Eduardo s mother.

Born with part of a chromosome missing, Eduardo grappled with a raft of health challenges at the start. Three long scars, two of them vividly raw, mark some of the invasive work performed by doctors to fix a perforated digestive track. Five surgeries later, he s now eating like most infants his age.

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But Eduardo was also born with Congenital Vertical Talus (CVT), a rare deformity of the foot which can lead to serious discomfort and a lack of mobility later in life.

Eduardo s mother recalled spending the first days of her son s life in tears and depressed.

At first it was very hard. We thought we were going to have a baby laying down all day, someone who wouldn t be able to express what he wanted, she said.

Three weeks after birth, doctors put Eduardo in casts to help straighten his feet, but the casts amounted to a mereBand-Aid for his condition.

The only true remedy for the boy s condition, they were told by physicians, would be surgery. However, after all the operations on Eduardo s digestive track, his parents could not afford the steep cost to correct his CVT.

Last month, this San Antonio family turned to the Shriners for help. Widely known for their signature red hats and the miniature cars and clown costumes during Fiesta, the Shriners take great pride in their legacy of helping needy kids.

Each year, Shriners help roughly 700 children in South Texas, treating them free of chargeat Shriners Children Hospitals.

There s nothing more prouder than a man who stoops to help a child. Nobody is left out. If a child needs help, no matter their ability to pay, we take them in, said Mario Vargas, an Alzafar Shriner and also the chairman of the Shiners Gala on Saturday night in San Antonio.

Choking back tears, Vargas stressed it s an immeasurable gift to help children such as Eduardo.

He touches me, because they were told he could never walk. That he would never be right, Vargas said.

Scheduled for surgery later this year, Eduardo s parents sound happily overwhelmed about the prognosis they ve received from doctors that the surgery will correct Eduardo s feet, with no pain nor repercussions as he gets older.

They re amazing, Lopez said of the Shiners. They went the day I went to them and they explained how it worked. I couldn t believe it. I couldn t believe there are actually so many people who would do this to help these kids.

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