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GKAS: putting action to need

ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile kickoff event serves more than 200 kids

February 05, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

Photo of GKAS patients holding up thank you signs
Gratitude: Shayleen, 10, left Joelle, 10, right, and Grayson, 9, send a message to the organizers and sponsors of the 2018 Give Kids A Smile kickoff at The Ohio State University.
Columbus, Ohio — The more than 200 kids who filled The Ohio State University College of Dentistry's operatories on Feb. 2 for the 2018 Give Kids A Smile national kickoff got cleanings, X-rays, restorations, sealants and other treatment they needed but may not otherwise get.

All walked away with healthier smiles and also, in many cases, an oral care goody bag and balloon animals.

Before the event began, many of the essential organizers and sponsors of the event gathered for breakfast and reflected on the ADA Foundation's Give Kids A Smile initiative, which is in its 16th year and has served more than 5.5 million children during that time. More than 300,000 underserved children are expected to receive dental services this year alone at GKAS events through the country.

Photo of child with balloon hat
Many skills: Third-year dental student Kyle Spackman was the designated balloon handler at the Give Kids A Smile kickoff at Ohio State University on Feb. 2.
"They are someone's children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters. They all deserve the chance to be healthy and have a smile on their face," said Dr. William Calnon, ADA Foundation president.

For ADA President Joseph P. Crowley, the event also served as a homecoming of sorts, since OSU is his alma mater.

He told organizers and sponsors of the Feb. 2 event that it was "awesome to be able to come home and see something like this."

"Oral health awareness is lacking in some places," he said. "GKAS has put action to that need."

Photo of practitioners treating a patient
Sealing the deal: Dhaval Patel, a third-year dental student, left, and John Fixari, a fourth-year dental student, apply sealants to Brianna during the Give Kids A Smile kickoff at Ohio State University on Feb. 2.
The planning and organization it took to launch the event was clear to many of the families who took advantage of the no-cost care, including Andrea Garner, of Columbus, who brought her three children.

"They feel comfortable here," she said of her boys Malachi, 7, and Micah, 5. "They feel more like a friend than a dentist. They play with them; they talk to them."

GKAS 2018 sponsor logos
Brittany Huddleston said she left her Columbus home early for her son Shawn's appointment.

"It's very important for kids to have access to dental (care)," she said. "Not a lot of people have it and people don't always realize – your teeth are very important. It's really nice to have a free dental clinic for anyone who needs it."

Some of the children who visited the Ohio State clinic were bused in from nearby schools and given crayons and coloring pages to keep busy while their peers got care.

Dailyn, 10, took advantage of the activities and reflected on his dental cleaning that morning. "They were nice to me and told me how patient I was," he said proudly, holding up the dog-shaped balloon that third-year dental student Kyle Spackman made for him.

Mr. Spackman said he was recruited to create the balloon concoctions all day for the kids, who eagerly requested flowers or swords.

To be sure, Ohio State dental students were the principal organizers of the event, led this year by third-year dental student Haella Holmes.

Photo of volunteer making balloon hats
Smile time: Breany, 9, shows off the balloon hat decorated with princess stickers that she got at the 2018 Give Kids A Smile Kickoff at The Ohio State University.

"Seeing even just one kid who comes in in pain or comes in scared and leaves smiling and not in pain makes the whole day worth it," she said.  "We're very happy to help out."

Support for the GKAS program comes from national sponsors Henry Schein, Colgate and KaVo Kerr.

For more information about Give Kids A Smile, visit ADAFoundation.org/GKAS.
Group photo of GKAS sponsors and leaders
Come together for care: Some of the organizers and sponsors for the 2018 Give Kids A Smile kickoff gathered for breakfast preceding the event on Feb. 2, where more than 200 kids were served. From left, Tina Cunningham, academic relations manager for Colgate; Phyllis Martina, senior academic relations manager for Colgate; Dr. William Calnon, ADA Foundation president; Dr. Patrick Lloyd, dean of The Ohio State University College of Dentistry; Michele Penrose, director of professional relations and development for Henry Schein; Dr. Joseph P. Crowley, ADA President; Dr. David Krol, member of the ADA Foundation Give Kids A Smile National Committee; Dr. Erin Gross, faculty advisor for Give Kids A Smile at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry; and David Owsiany, executive director for the Ohio Dental Association.