The nation’s largest dentist-sponsored Halloween candy exchange benefiting U.S. troops – Operation Troop Treats – is gearing up for its sixth year. Hosted by children’s dental provider Kool Smiles in partnership with Operation Gratitude, Operation Troop Treats is a national community outreach program designed to teach children about good dental health and the importance of giving back to those who serve our country, all while giving deployed U.S. troops a “sweet” reminder of home.
Here’s how it works: From Saturday, Oct. 28 through Saturday, Nov. 4, children and families can exchange their Halloween candy for toys at any of the 123 participating Kool Smiles dental offices nationwide. Kool Smiles dentists then send the donated candy, dental supplies for troops, and funds to cover the assembly and shipment of care packages to Operation Gratitude, a national nonprofit that annually produces and ships thousands of care packages to U.S. service members deployed overseas. The care packages are filled with donated Halloween candy, letters of appreciation, entertainment and hygiene items, and other comforts from home.
Since 2012, Kool Smiles has collected more than 12 tons of donated candy and sponsored the shipment of more than 1,200 care packages to U.S. troops stationed overseas through Operation Gratitude. More than 29,000 children donated four tons of candy through Operation Troop Treats in 2016 alone. This year’s volunteer effort will include more than 450 participating Kool Smiles dentists from 123 office locations in 14 states and the District of Columbia. To date, Operation Troop Treats is the largest Halloween candy exchange hosted by a U.S. dental provider.
“We started Operation Troop Treats six years ago to promote healthy dental habits during Halloween and to bring a little bit of holiday joy to U.S. service members deployed overseas who are not able to celebrate with family here at home,” said Dr. Dale Mayfield, Chief Dental Officer for Kool Smiles. “Many of our Kool Smiles patient families and employees are current or former service members, so this is a small way for us to share a smile with our troops and say thank you to those who sacrifice so much to ensure our safety and security.”
In addition to this year’s candy shipment, Kool Smiles dentists will donate 200 dental kits and the funds to cover the assembly and shipment of 200 Operation Gratitude care packages.
Operation Gratitude is a 501(c)(3), volunteer-based organization that annually produces more than 200,000 care packages for U.S. Service Members deployed in harm’s way, their children, Wounded Heroes, Veterans, New Recruits and First Responders.
Since 2007, Operation Gratitude has encouraged dentists to collect Halloween candy from their patients for donation to the troops.
“Operation Troop Treats gives children of all ages an opportunity to say thank you to the people who put their lives on the line for our protection, and to experience the values of service and giving in a hands-on and memorable way,” said Carolyn Blashek, Founder of Operation Gratitude. “We’re excited to partner with Kool Smiles again this year to send candy, smiles, and a whole lot of gratitude to U.S. Service Members deployed overseas.”
All Kool Smiles dental offices throughout the country are participating in Operation Troop Treats during business hours from Saturday, Oct. 28 through Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. The program is open to all children and families, regardless of whether they are Kool Smiles patients. Every child that takes part will receive one toy for every 25 pieces of unopened candy in its original intended packaging. There is a limit of three toys per child and toys are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Brushing twice daily and getting regular dental check-ups is vital for people of all ages. However, Halloween is an especially important time for parents to pay close attention to their children’s dental health and sugar intake.
“Sugar creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria in the mouth, which can wear away at tooth enamel and create cavities,” said Dr. Mayfield. “Reducing the frequency of sugar intake can help combat tooth decay during the holiday season. We don’t want to take the fun out of Trick or Treating – just the cavities!”
For more information on the program, including the nearest Kool Smiles location, please visit http://www.mykoolsmiles.com/trooptreats.