The ADA Foundation recently hosted the first Give Kids A Smile (GKAS) Ambassador Alumni Conference to support the expansion of GKAS. More than 5 million underserved children have received oral healthcare and education since the program’s national launch in 2003. GKAS Ambassadors are graduates of the ADA Foundation’s GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute (GKAS Institute).
Together with the ADA Foundation, ADA, and sponsors Colgate-Palmolive and Henry Schein Cares Foundation, the event’s 18 Give Kids A Smile Ambassadors discussed best practices and considered ways to enhance the national GKAS program, all geared toward the 2016 kickoff in February during National Children’s Dental Health Month. The meeting theme was “Building a Better Give Kids A Smile.”
“Colgate-Palmolive has a strong commitment to improving the oral health of the public—especially children—and is proud to serve as a long-time national sponsor of Give Kids A Smile,” said Fotinos S. Panagakos, DMD, PhD, global director of scientific affairs, Colgate-Palmolive Company. “Effective education and expanding access to care are important public health priorities. Sharing best practices from these organizers and volunteers will make GKAS an even better program in the future, so we are pleased to support this innovative and important new symposium.”
“Bringing experienced GKAS organizers together is an excellent way to develop best practices for the thousands of events and their leaders that will be organized in the future,” noted Steven Kess, vice president of global professional relations for Henry Schein Inc, president of Henry Schein Cares Foundation, and founding chairman of the GKAS National Advisory Committee. “Each program has its own unique attributes to better serve the children in need in their community. The strength of the program is the similarities and differences each program incorporated into their planning. In the end they all achieve ‘giving kids a smile!'”
Raymond Tseng, DDS, PhD, a 2014 GKAS Ambassador who runs a GKAS program in North Carolina, expressed his excitement to be part of a movement that helps so many children in need. “It brings together clinicians, community organizers, educators, the public, and public and private philanthropic organizations to make real and meaningful solutions to issues happening now.”
Since 2011, the GKAS Institute has hosted select GKAS program coordinators at an annual 3-day session where they gain hands-on experience regarding how to initiate, enhance, or expand their existing GKAS program. The GKAS Institute is held in St Louis during the longest-running annual GKAS event in the nation, now in its 14th year. These GKAS Ambassadors are then available to serve as regional resources for other GKAS coordinators. A list of prior GKAS Ambassadors is available at adafoundation.org.
“We are very proud of what the Give Kids A Smile program has done to improve the health of millions of children over the years,” said Reneida Reyes, DDS, MPH, president, ADA Foundation. “We want to make this an even bigger and better initiative in the future, and the key to that is to learn from the experiences of our volunteers who organize and carry out these events. We are very grateful for their time here, and for all that they do every year.”