Local high school students use their writing skills to highlight some of the charities that receive funding from Old Newsboys. See more charities served on OldNewsboysDay.org.
Smiling is something people do naturally throughout the day. Smile at a friend, colleague or teacher. For children, having a pleasant smile can boost their confidence and help them make new friends, but not all children are able to take good care of their teeth. They may not be able to afford a dentist or have the opportunity to learn about good oral health. Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) is a non-profit organization helping to fill this void. The association has been providing comprehensive dental care to underprivileged children since 2002.
“We would love to go out of business,” said Dr. Jeff Dalin, Secretary / Treasurer of Give Kids a Smile. “It would be the best thing in the world. If we could make children decay free, we wouldn’t need to. Meanwhile, we must be there as a safety net that will protect children from horrific dental pain and suffering. “
In a typical year before the pandemic, GKAS would host two clinics to help educate and provide free dental services to children in the St. Louis area. The first clinic was usually held in February, in honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the second clinic was usually held in October. Between the two clinics each year, dentists were able to treat hundreds of children in one day.
“The key to improving dental health care is education and awareness so that we can prevent the pain and suffering that children experience,” said Dalin. “It’s sad for us to see when they come to us with really bad mouths.”
Due to current health restrictions, the association is still unable to offer annual clinics, which has significantly affected the number of children they can see. Instead, GKAS offers services for children through individual appointments. The Give Kids a Smile team helps locate those in need of dental care by relying on staff from school systems.
“We are not having as big an impact as we would like,” said Dr Thomas Flavin, president of Give Kids a Smile. “At the same time, because the children are not seen, we realize that the problems they face will only get worse.”
Without the large biannual clinics, fundraising for Give Kids a Smile was reduced, forcing the organization to rely on grants and charitable donations from businesses and foundations. Donations help pay for surgeries and other necessary oral health care. Children who do not see the dentist regularly can suffer from severe dental pain which can cause trouble sleeping, eating, and general discomfort.
“Some of these children are unable to access care not only because of their finances, but also a lack of transportation, a family support system or many other factors that they may not have. be not in their life, ”said Dalin. “We try to provide what we can because every child should be able to eat and think without pain.”
After helping thousands of patients in the 20 years since the association was founded, Dr Flavin reflects on what he loves most.
“It’s really a worthwhile thing to do… to help these kids,” Flavin said. “It’s amazing to see them smile after having their teeth fixed for the first time.”