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Refocusing, reenergizing efforts

Give Kids A Smile leaders meet to better their programs

August 21, 2017

By Kelly Soderlund

Ambassadors: Give Kids A Smile Ambassador Alumni Conference participants pose for a photo July 21 at ADA Headquarters in Chicago. They came from around the country to share their ideas and success stories.
Tips and tidbits and stories and memories and plans.

ADA Headquarters was abuzz July 20-21 at the Give Kids A Smile Ambassador Alumni Conference, where 28 people who had attended a GKAS Leadership Development Institute joined representatives from the ADA Foundation and sponsoring organizations to share ideas and learn from each other. The group spent nearly two days discussing and proposing best practices, brainstorming ideas to resolve challenges facing GKAS volunteers and exploring ways to enhance and expand the national GKAS program.

“I was not sure what to expect but listening to several of the presenters was a wonderful way for me to refocus and reenergize my efforts in our tribal community,” said Dr. Barry Conger, dental director for Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington. “Many ideas were presented and discussed, some of which worked in the past, as well as pitfalls to avoid in designing a program to help meet the needs of children and parents. While the specifics were important, the passion of all the great programs was something which captivated me and allowed me to take a critical look at what I was doing and come up with fresh and new ideas.”

The ambassadors are alumni of the ADAF’s GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute, held every year since 2011. The institute is a three-day session that takes place in St. Louis, the birthplace of GKAS more than 15 years ago. The ambassadors receive hands-on experience on how to initiate, enhance and expand their own GKAS programs, and then they bring back their knowledge to serve as regional advisors for other GKAS program coordinators.

“The outcome of the conference will certainly be improved access to care, as we work to advance current GKAS programs in our communities and serve as liaisons to other GKAS program coordinators,” said Dr. Courtney Barrett, of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Those interested in contacting an ambassador in their area to share ideas and discuss their GKAS program can email and ADA Foundation staff will make the connection.

GKAS coordinators can apply by Oct. 31 for a GKAS Continuity of Care Grant to offer continuity of dental care to underserved children after their initial GKAS visit.

For more information on the Give Kids A Smile Institute and the GKAS Continuity of Care Grants, visit