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Dental student ‘ironman’ bikes for kids

Minnesota man raises money for Give Kids A Smile

Lakeville, Minn.—A University of Minnesota School of Dentistry student combined his dedication to philanthropy with his enthusiasm for cycling in a Give Kids A Smile fundraiser and awareness campaign at the May 6 Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride.

Image: Pit stop: University of Minnesota School of Dentistry student Kyle Smith poses at the 100-mile mark during the Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride, where he raised money for Give Kids A Smile.
Pit stop:University of Minnesota School of Dentistry student Kyle Smith poses at the 100-mile mark during the Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride, where he raised money for Give Kids A Smile.

Publicizing his mission on YouCaring.com, Facebook and Twitter, Kyle Smith (class of 2014) raised $1,100 from friends, family, acquaintances, Twitter followers, a few anonymous online donors and a generous donation form Oral-B. He will donate $550 to the dental school’s GKAS program and $550 to the ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile fund.

“I had tweeted back and forth with Oral-B on other issues in the past and I sent them a message via Twitter about my fundraiser and they said they would be happy to help out,” said Kyle. “They sent me a package two days before the ride and I was amazed when I found a $500 donation inside. I definitely wasn’t expecting anything close to that amount, but it showed me they cared about Give Kids A Smile and what I was doing to try to help spread the word and grow the event.”

Kyle volunteered in two U of M GKAS events and another at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis when he was an undergrad.

“I’ve always seen giving back and volunteering as an important part of the dental profession,” he said. “Philanthropy has always been a big passion of mine, and I enjoy giving my time and energy to worthwhile causes like Give Kids A Smile events or volunteering as a consultant/mentor for pre-dental students through UMN’s American Student Dental Association chapter or on my own. Give Kids A Smile has definitely been one of my favorite events. I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact that the events have on both kids and their families and I wanted to help grow the events and also raise awareness about it as well so that more underserved kids can receive dental care.”

Kyle said he started getting serious about cycling last fall and has been trying to ride 50 or 60 miles a week when the Minnesota weather cooperates and sometimes rides on an indoor trainer as he prepares for a triathlon.

“I only had about 500 miles total on my bike before I signed up for the 100 mile Minnesota Ironman Bike Ride,” he said. “I increased my cycling time in the two weeks leading up to the event. I only had about two weeks to prepare for it since I signed up late. My training has been a big part of my school life in the past year. I find that I’m actually more productive after a good workout or ride and it’s definitely a great stress reliever. When I’m out on my bike, school is usually pretty far from my mind. It’s a nice mental break.”

Kyle said the Ironman event was a terrific experience, although he had some moments when he doubted he could go the distance.

“There were a few times between miles 50 and 85 where after a big climb the thought of calling it quits entered my mind, but I always remembered what I was riding for and all of the people who had supported me in this goal,” Kyle said. “Quitting just wasn’t a possibility. After five hours and 45 minutes of pedaling, nine bananas, six Gatorades, one unsanctioned roadside bathroom break and an hour and a half of rest time between the five rest stops along the route, I crossed the finish line. It was pretty cool.”

Kyle is also going to share his experience on the American Student Dental Association’s blog, Mouthing Off (www.asdablog.com).

“I always find it inspiring when people and companies can come together and support a good cause, and I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting this event,” he said. “I look forward to writing the checks to the University of Minnesota Give Kids A Smile Committee and the ADA Foundation National Give Kids A Smile Fund, as well as volunteering this coming February at an event that truly lives up to its name.”

Dr. David Whiston, president of the ADA Foundation Board of Directors, praised Kyle for his initiative and his effort.

“What a great example of caring and leadership by Kyle Smith. His dedication to helping others, especially children, is notable,” said Dr. Whiston. “By pushing himself to compete in the event, and to organize the fundraising, he set an example for all of us. We will be proud to accept his donation on behalf of the Give Kids A Smile Program.”