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Charitable legacy

Son of GKAS co-founder continues tradition

March 18, 2019

By Kelly Ganski

Andy Dalin, Dr. Jeff Dalin, Vop Osili, Dr. Larry Fortress, Dr. Tawana Lee-Ware, Rick Anderson and Todd Myers

Hoosier smiles: Volunteers at the Indiana University School of Dentistry’s GKAS event gather for a smile. From left, Andy Dalin, dental student and event coordinator; Dr. Jeff Dalin, GKAS co-founder; Vop Osili, Indianapolis City-County council president;  Dr. Larry Fortress, IU faculty; Dr. Tawana Lee-Ware, volunteer; a child who attended the event; Rick Anderson, founder and head of school for the Allegiant Prep Academy; and Todd Myers, second-year dental student.

Photo courtesy of Indiana University School of Dentistry

Indianapolis — Dr. Jeff Dalin is used to being in charge. 

As the co-founder of the Give Kids A Smile program, Dr. Dalin has provided direction to events around the country for almost 17 years. He’s always the head cheese, big kahuna and every other cliché name you can think of for the word “boss.” 

But there’s a new Dalin on the Give Kids A Smile scene, and on Feb. 16, he was the boss. 

Andy Dalin, Dr. Dalin’s 25-year-old son and a third-year dental student, was the co-chair of the GKAS event at the Indiana University School of Dentistry. Andy worked with IU faculty to coordinate the logistics for the event, including collaborating with neighborhood schools and agencies to let them know about the free access to oral health care event; creating education and entertainment for the children while they waited; and assigning tasks to the 115 volunteer dental students, dentists, faculty and others who helped out. Including his dad. 

On that day, the tables were turned and Andy was the boss, not Dr. Dalin. 

“I didn’t have to be in charge. I was happy,” Dr. Dalin said. “You can’t even put into words how happy and proud that I am.” 

For Andy Dalin, there was no other plan other than to attend dental school. 

“I have two older siblings, and I was always the one who was interested in going to the office with my dad on weekends,” said Andy. 

When he was 10 years old, Andy started attending all of the GKAS events his dad coordinated, doing magic tricks or using puppets with the kids while they waited in line. 

“It was just crazy to see how bad the condition of some of these kids’ mouths were,” Andy said. “It made me realize the access to care just wasn’t there for some of them and how important the treatment they received at these events was to them, not just for their teeth but for their everyday lives.” 

In 2002, Dr. Dalin co-founded the Give Kids A Smile program in St. Louis. It’s now a national program, overseen by the ADA Foundation, and more than 5.5 million children have received free oral health services since its national launch in 2003. In 2019 alone, more than 360,000 children in need across the U.S. will receive free oral health services from 6,600 volunteer dentists and 27,000 other dental team and community volunteers at more than 1,500 GKAS events.  

In addition to Andy and Dr. Dalin, there was another familiar face from the St. Louis days at the IU GKAS event. Dr. Tawana Ware, a clinical assistant professor for pediatric dentistry at IU, used to volunteer with Dr. Dalin at his GKAS events in St. Louis when she was in private practice. Being able to work with Dr. Dalin, and now his son, has made the experience feel like it’s come full circle for her. 

“It was perfect timing,” Dr. Ware said. “All the parts coming together at the right time.” 

It had been 10-12 years since there had been a GKAS event at IU prior to Andy taking up the cause in 2016, Dr. Ware said. 

“Andy has been an integral part for us bringing Give Kids A Smile back to the school,” said Dr. Ware. “Andy was just a phenomenal student leader. He was on-hands on for the entire process this year.” 

At the IU event, volunteers screened 120 children, providing X-rays, fluoride, sealants, prophys, restorative care and
extractions where needed. Students dressed up as the tooth fairy; cheerleaders from the
college were there, as well as an ex-Indianapolis Colts football player and some Pacemates, the cheerleaders for the Indiana Pacers. 

Andy will be the third generation Dalin in dentistry. Dr. Dalin has been in practice in St. Louis for nearly 39 years, joining his father, Dr. Harry Dalin, in practice. Upon graduation in 2020, Andy will join Dalin Dental Associates.  

It’s been the plan all along for Andy. Dr. Ware said it was his destiny. 

“He grew up with this. It was just meant to be.”