Chelsea McGarry from the University of Connecticut’s paper, The Daily Campus, reporting about Conn ASDA’s recent fundraising for the Give Back a Smile program:
Saturday, Oct. 15, 45 UConn dental students from the School of Dental Medicine ran in the Hartford Marathon to raise money for the American Academy of Cosmetic Charitable Dentistry Foundation’s (AACDCF) Give Back a Smile program.
Give Back a Smile program began May 27, 1999, and the organization restores the broken smiles of victims of those who suffered from abuse by their intimate partner or spouse. Each dollar donated is worth approximately 16 times its amount because of the pro bono work done by dental laboratories and dentists, the major catalysts behind this effort. Since the program’s inception, over 1,100 smiles have been reinstated, worth over $10 million. A donation of $200 restores approximately one smile, and students from the dental school’s American Student Dental Association (ASDA) partnered with the foundation’s mission to heal some of the physical lasting damage of abuse. The ASDA is a national student-run group that strives to instill change to better others and the profession.
“As our fundraising and outreach efforts picked up, we started hearing back from members of our own community who had encountered domestic violence within their own lives,” said Stefanie Aquilina, second year dental student and coordinator for the ASDA participation in the event. “As upsetting as it was to hear, it was also a poignant reminder of the change we could evoke simply by telling our friends and family about the program and encouraging donations.”
The runners and volunteers fundraised and signed up numerous sponsors from friends, family and other community members. Their goals were to connect with the community, raise awareness and raise money. The UConn ASDA chapter officially achieved their goal as of Wednesday, Oct. 19 when they raised a total of $2,000 to restore 10 smiles during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“While this program is established more so in other states and the money we raise is not restricted to only Connecticut residents, we hope that with our involvement and support we will raise awareness to the need for development of this program in the state of Connecticut,” said Alyssa McIntyre, ASDA community service chair and third year dental student.
Students ran a total of 289 miles collectively, and participated individually and in groups in events such as the full marathon, half marathon, 5k, and a team relay, which consisted of 5 legs: 5.5 miles, 5.6 miles, 3.1 miles, 6.3 miles and 5.7 miles. Each runner received a neon Miles for Smiles T-Shirt at the event. Many of the participants wore knee high socks to the race that they decorated with the their organization’s name.
“Running with a purpose, for a purpose makes a half marathon seem more do-able,” said fourth-year dental student Brittany Sonnichsen. “After we finished this year, a group of my fourth year dental classmates and I said we would love to all come back from our respective jobs or residency programs every year to continue participating in the event. It felt great after finishing the event. I would definitely suggest this event to other student groups.”
- Chelsea McGarry