Skip to main content
Toggle Menu of ADA WebSites
ADA Websites
Partnerships and Commissions
Toggle Search Area
Toggle Menu
e-mail Print Share

Ambassadors get road map to GKAS success

December 03, 2013

By Stacie Crozier, ADA News staff

Ambassadors: 2013 GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute ambassadors get ready to volunteer at the Give Kids A Smile—St. Louis event at St. Louis University Center for Advanced Dental Education.
St. Louis—For the third year, selected Give Kids A Smile “ambassadors” from across the U.S. gathered in the city where it all began to develop their own customized roadmap to enhancing and/or expanding their GKAS programs.

Ten program coordinators received grants to attend the 2013 GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute Oct. 23-26. Participants came to the institute with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of their current programs and received intensive hands-on training from ADA and Give Kids A Smile—St. Louis staff on how to plan and execute a successful and sustainable program in their own communities. They also got some hands-on experience working in a variety of capacities at the St. Louis GKAS treatment event at St. Louis University Center for Advanced Dental Education, where more than 600 children received comprehensive dental care, education, goodie bags and more.

Vicki Nixon, executive director of the Cincinnati Dental Society was one of the 2013 ambassadors.

Her dental society's program runs nine months a year while school is in session, and serves children ages 3 to 18 that have no dental insurance. Volunteer dentists, dental assistants and dental hygienists provide services a half day each week.

Smile time: The Delta Dental Panda and Tooth Wizard coax a smile from a youngster at the Give Kids A Smile—St. Louis treatment clinic in October.
“We see 225 to 250 children per year and perform cleanings, X-rays, restorative and simple extractions,” Ms. Nixon said. “We have a panel of specialist willing to help outside of our clinic on a year round basis. The specialty care program helps cover anesthesia costs in either a hospital setting or private office. We prefer having kids treated in private offices as it is about 80 percent less costly then the hospital.”

Until three years ago, the dental society also conducted a once-a-year GKAS event in addition to the school year program, but because volunteer dentists also provide care at a free dental clinic and for a veterans' program, the large annual event was discontinued.

“As you can see, we ask a great deal from our volunteers,” Ms. Nixon said. “However, I would like to bring back a GKAS event maybe every two years to keep the enthusiasm and excitement going as well as to bring other partners on board. I learned so much about the process from the St. Louis event that we are already implementing new ideas into screening events we are holding this fall.”

Jennifer Meyer, assistant instructor of dental hygiene, Southern Illinois University School of Allied Health in Carbondale, Ill., wants to enhance the SIU program by adding transportation services.


“The main goal I have had for years is to provide transportation assistance to families,” Ms. Meyer said. “Carbondale is surrounded by numerous rural towns, and frequently parents do not have a vehicle or the financial means to get their child to the appointment. I went to the Institute to gather information from other ambassadors on school bus transportation, working with school nurses to identify children in need and how to get parental permission for school aged children.”

Ms. Meyer says that in addition to volunteer dental professionals, SIU football players come to entertain the 200+ children served at the annual GKAS day. Children who need follow-up restorative care can be treated at the local community dental center.

Ms. Meyer said the St. Louis event gave her ideas on how to streamline the flow of her event, how to engage the community to provide support and how to lighten the mood for patients and volunteers like adding balloons and entertainment.

A total of 28 Give Kids A Smile ambassadors from 20 states have now been trained through the GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute. GKAS Institute sponsors Hu-Friedy, Henry Schein Cares and the ADA Foundation award up to 10 travel grants annually to applicants who demonstrate commitment and ability to begin a new GKAS program or enhance an existing one and have experience with managing/chairing an access to care event.

“As a supporter of Give Kids A Smile, we've witnessed first-hand the impressive growth of the program, both in terms of the number of children served and the comprehensiveness of services delivered,” said Patrick Bernardi, vice president, Global Brand Marketing and Communications at Hu-Friedy. “Thanks to the passion of Give Kids A Smile co-founder Dr. Jeff Dalin and the GKAS ambassadors, as well as the success of the Leadership Institute, participation in the program continues to increase. We're looking forward to even more clinicians getting involved and contributing to GKAS efforts in their communities.”

2013 ambassadors also include Jessica Flotterud, Union Gospel Mission, St. Paul, Minn.; Rachel Lovejoy, Provo District Dental Society, Springville, Utah; Lisa McLerran, North Texas Dental Society, Plano, Texas; Sharyn Markus, Colorado Springs Dental Society, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Kandyce Mack, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, Ga.; Mariela Bella Penate, San Fernando Valley Dental Society, Chatsworth, Calif,; Cory Spencer, Community Action Partnership, Santa Rosa, Calif.; and Dr. Montressor Upshaw, Community Health Services Inc., Hartford, Conn.

For more information on the GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute, visit online. Information on the 2014 program will be announced in a future issue of ADA News.