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Delaware celebrates GKAS

February 12, 2018

By Jennifer Garvin

Photo of GKAS volunteers with patient
Smile time: Dr. John Nista presents Katarina, 5, with a present before her cavity treatment while Dr. Puja Balchandani looks on.
Wilmington, Del. — Here in Wilmington — also known as Eagles country, euphoria remained following the team's first Super Bowl victory.

It carried over into the state's Feb. 10 Give Kids A Smile event, where children and volunteers alike shared their team spirit.

It even made it into the day's pep talk, when Dr. Joseph Kelly thanked volunteers for donating their time.  

"An individual makes a difference, but a team makes a miracle," said Dr. Kelly, quoting Eagles Coach Doug Pederson, and adding, "A smile is the window to the soul so you are really touching someone today."

This was the 15th year that the Delaware State Dental Society has participated in GKAS. Dr. Kelly's office was one of three locations to host events. The other two were in Dover and Middletown. All told, 158 volunteers, including 42 DSDS dentist members and other volunteers including hygienists, assistants and office staff, donated their time and talents. More than 300 children received free dental cleanings, restorations, fluoride treatments, X-rays, hygiene lessons and goody bags containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss.

Photo of GKAS volunteers with patient
All smiles: Dr. Vincent Daniels, right, and dental assistant Deepthi Nannapaneni, take a moment with 12-year-old Taliyah.
Having the event at his office for the first time was an easy decision for Dr. Kelly, who regularly volunteers during annual mission trips with his staff to Jamaica. "We're addicted," he said. "It's pure. You're just helping people."

Every one of the office's 10 operatories was in motion on Saturday.

Six-year-old Kenny let it be known that he wanted to "go first." His sisters, Grace, 4, and Saniya, 8, were just going to have to wait.

"He's been dying for his teeth to fall out," said his mother Toni. "He wants the Tooth Fairy to come."

"What is that?" asked Grace, watching as hygienist Lindsay Baiocco expertly polished her brother's teeth.

"It's a special toothbrush," explained older sister Saniya.

Ms. Baiocco nodded, explaining, "It's making them nice and sparkly."

Photo of GKAS volunteers
Volunteers: Dr. John Nista, Dr. Mariam Soliman, Liz Allen and Dr. Joseph Kelly, pose during the Delaware State Dental Society's annual GKAS event. Dr. Kelly's office hosted the Feb. 10 event.
Over in room 3, Dr. Vincent Daniels was talking to 12-year-old Taliyah and her mother about sealants.

"She's a good candidate," he said, explaining how the thin, plastic coatings placed on Taliyah's back molars could help protect them from tooth decay.

Across the hall, Katarina, 5, was being prepped for a filling.

Dr. John Nista, an orthodontist, made her a balloon animal out of a latex glove, while Dr. Puja Balchandani put "sleepy jelly" on Katarina's tooth to "clean out the sugar bugs."

Photo of GKAS volunteer with kids
Brushing time: Sandra Lopez, a dental assistant student at Delaware Tech, gives a hygiene lesson during GKAS.
Meanwhile, back in the waiting room, dozens of children and their families patiently waited their turns. Some colored or played with toys. Others took a trip to the special hygiene room, where dental assisting students from nearby Delaware Tech provided interactive oral hygiene lessons.

"We've had a good turnout; it's a good team effort," Dr. Kelly said.

Said Dr. Thomas Conaty, "It's a small state and we all work together and do good things."

The Wilmington, Del., GKAS event is one of more than 1,300 expected to take place throughout the U.S. during 2018. To learn more about Give Kids A Smile or to make a donation to the ADA Foundation, visit ADAFoundation.org.