ATLANTA, Nov. 14, 2017/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- National children's dental provider Kool Smiles today announced more than four tons (8,594 pounds) of Halloween candy collected during its sixth annual Operation Troop Treats, the nation's largest dentist-sponsored Halloween candy exchange benefiting U.S. service members and their families.
Designed to promote good dental health while giving deployed U.S. troops a "sweet" reminder of home during the holiday season, Operation Troop Treats is a partnership between Kool Smiles and Operation Gratitude that encourages children and families to exchange their Halloween candy for toys at participating Kool Smiles offices nationwide.
The donated candy is shipped in care packages to U.S. troops deployed overseas via Operation Gratitude, a 501(c)(3), volunteer-based organization that produces and sends care packages to U.S. service members deployed in harm's way, their children, wounded heroes, veterans, new recruits and first responders.
"This program is a win-win for everyone involved, from giving children an incentive to give up candy for a great cause to teaching them about good dental hygiene, all while giving back to those who give so much to us," said Dr. Dale Mayfield, Chief Dental Officer for Kool Smiles. "It's been a joy to see the generosity and enthusiasm from the kids in our communities who came to our offices to donate their candy for a great cause."
An estimated 18,000 children donated a total of 8,594 pounds of candy during this year's Operation Troop Treats. More than 450 dentists from 123 Kool Smiles offices in 14 states and the District of Columbia were involved in this year's effort.
Since 2012, children and families have donated more than 16 tons of Halloween candy through Operation Troop Treats.
In addition to the Halloween candy, Kool Smiles is donating dental kits and the funds to cover the assembly and shipment of 200 care packages to Operation Gratitude.
Along with thousands of individual donations, several children partnered with Kool Smiles to organize their own community-wide candy collection drives as part of this year's Operation Troop Treats.
Lauren Fenty, age 11, lost her father in Afghanistan when she was only 28 days old. Inspired by his memory, two Halloweens ago Lauren went in search of a way to support the troops and organized her first school-wide Halloween candy collection effort at John B. Dey Elementary School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Lauren collected more than 770 pounds of candy from her fellow students that first year. Now in middle school, Lauren continues to be involved in the Halloween candy exchange at the elementary school each year. This year, Lauren collected more than 600 pounds of candy and worked with the Kool Smiles office in Virginia Beach to send the candy to Operation Gratitude. Kool Smiles also gave Lauren a check to donate to her local Operation Smile chapter in exchange for the candy collection. Lauren's candy collection efforts this year included outreach to her middle school AVID program, a social media and emailing campaign to rally greater support, and neighborhood canvassing. To date, Lauren has collected more than 2,100 pounds of candy and raised enough money, when coupled with KoolSmiles contributions, to pay for 14 cleft palate surgeries through Operation Smile.
In Washington, D.C., Eli and Jonah Zucker, ages 9 and 10, came up with a plan to support U.S. troops while also helping U.S. hurricane and wildfire victims. They approached the Takoma Park Kool Smiles office about organizing a candy collection for Operation Troop Treats in exchange for a donation to disaster relief organizations providing aid to communities affected by the recent hurricanes and wildfires. The Takoma Park office pledged to donate $2 for every pound of candy collected, up to 150 pounds. The boys collected more than 150 pounds of candy for Operation Troop Treats, and Kool Smiles gave them a check for $300 to be distributed to disaster relief organizations through Youth Venture, a youth social entrepreneurship organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.
"We strive to provide Americans of all ages, anywhere in the country, a way to express their thanks to all who serve," said Carolyn Blashek, Founder of Operation Gratitude. "The Operation Troop Treats Halloween candy exchange is a perfect avenue for children to learn about patriotism and service, and also to donate their hard-earned candy to their heroes in an active and meaningful way."
About Kool Smiles Kool Smiles is dedicated to creating a world of happy, healthy smiles. As a leading dental health provider, Kool Smiles' mission is to improve lives by providing high quality dental care in a fun, compassionate environment. Kool Smiles dentists are proud to offer care to kids and adults with almost any insurance plan, including State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), Medicaid and Tricare. Kool Smiles also provides oral health education programs through partnerships with community schools and organizations. For more information, please visit www.mykoolsmiles.com.
About Operation Gratitude Operation Gratitude annually sends 200,000+ care packages to Veterans, First Responders, New Recruits, Wounded Heroes, their Care Givers, and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas and their families waiting at home. Each package is filled with food, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, as well as personal letters of support. Our mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of the Military and First Responder communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for civilians anywhere in America to express their appreciation to all who serve our nation. Each package contains donated product valued between $45 and $100 and costs our organization $15 to assemble and ship. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 1.9 million care packages.