Author: Emily Edwards
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer at the Give Kids a Smile event on October 27, 2012. I had signed up to volunteer for this event in early September not knowing very much about the event or it’s history. After volunteering at the event, I was inspired to look up more information. Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) was launched in 2002 by a group of dental professionals and volunteers. This organization provides free, comprehensive dental care to the underserved children of Missouri. Every child, if needed, receives a free examination, professional cleaning, fluoride treatment, sealants, restorations, oral surgery, x-rays, and dental hygiene education. Yes, I repeat that this is all free for these children. GKAS has served 10,630 patients since 2002, which accumulates to 4,642,537 dollars in patient services.
When we first walked into the building to register, I was amazed at how many volunteers were there to help these children. The event refers to their volunteers as “heroes”. I love that! Everyone was wearing the long sleeve purple volunteer t-shirt, preparing for the waves of patients that would be showing up throughout the day. I specifically helped in the waiting area where the patients and their families waited until it was their time to be seen by the health professionals. There was face paint, music, a clown, games, and free lunches provided for the children and their families. The department of nutrition set up a booth with information on proper meals and snacks for children, recommended servings of the different foods groups, nutrition information on juice and soda, and ways to improve milk consumption for healthy teeth.
This is where I spent the first half of my morning. I played twister with the children and watched them try to throw beanbags into a giant mouth. The children were so excited to be there. A small girl told me she was “so excited she was getting her teef cweaned for the first time!” It made your heart melt hearing how far these families had traveled to be there that day. The parents were lined up behind the coffee dispensers all morning. I could have stayed there all morning, but it was time to switch with the other interns. I then headed over to the adjacent building to help with the physical assessments of the “tiny smiles” patients.
The patients who attended the tiny smiles segment got their weight and height taken. This was then plotted on a growth chart to compare to national standards. The parents also filled out a brief questionnaire that asked them questions about their child’s appetite and eating habits. I really enjoyed volunteering at this station. The parents were genuinely interested in the information we provided them. We gave one Mother tips on increasing fruits and vegetables in their picky child’s diet. A mother of twins was particularly concerned about the weight of her twin boys. They were born premature and only weighed four pounds when they were born. She was happy to hear that they were growing in the 56th percentile.
I left the Give Kids a Smile event that day completely overwhelmed. I had such a great time playing with the children. Although, I was a little sore from playing Twister so many times! I had even gained more experience in charting weights and heights on a growth chart. It was amazing to see so many people come together to help these underserved children of Missouri.