Local kids of all ages received free dental care, nutritious foods and even a chance to meet the tooth fairy at Friday’s Give Kids a Smile Day.
“My husband and I do this because it’s our way of giving back to the community,” said Julie Vaughn, who helped organize the event. She is the wife of Dr. Ryan Vaughn, whose dental practice was involved.
“We have 150 volunteers between both locations that are helping us. It ranges from dentists, hygienists, assistants, students and just plain volunteers that know nothing about dental,” she said.
The event, in its third year and held at two separate dental offices in Gainesville, offered free screenings, cleanings, fluoride, sealants and extractions to about 300 children. Volunteers also gave away more than 200 bags of food provided by the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.
Kay Blackstock, executive director of the food bank, said this was the first time the agency was involved in the event but staff there were happy to find another way to get food to those in need.
It was also the first time for the Hall County school system to bus kids to the location to receive care.
“The first two years (we had) parent transportation only, but we noticed a lot of children were not seen because the parents did not have transportation themselves,” said Mamie Coker, health services coordinator for Hall County Schools.
The school system had about 100 parents scheduled to come last year. This year, 190 students were transported by bus and 60 others were brought by their parents.
“We’ve always known lack of access to dental care is a huge issue,” Coker said. “Statistically, dental problems are some of the leading causes for students to miss school.”
The Vaughns sent letters to the schools to inform parents about the event.
“It’s hard (to get dental care) without insurance,” said Sheree Abel, parent of a 9-year-old student at Lanier Elementary School. “My husband and I work full time, and it’s great for people with no insurance.”
Though getting good dental care was the draw for parents and the school system, the tooth fairy likely was the main attraction for the kids.
“Bubble Gum” — otherwise known as Renee Woodall — was armed with a giant toothbrush and a magic, pink microphone.
“I have a real passion for helping kids get over their fear of the dentist and teaching them how to take care of their teeth,” said Woodall, who has been a tooth fairy for 32 years.
Other dentists that joined Vaughn in the effort included Drs. Richard Bennett, Heather McGee, Thomas Weyrich and Michael Thornton.