World Games Updates
On the last day of the World Winter Games, Special Olympics Trinidad and Tobago athlete Learie Buchan had 10 teeth extracted, dramatically improving his overall oral health.
Special Olympics and Boise Organization Produce "Miles of Smiles"
Thanks to the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program and a Boise, Idaho-based nonprofit organization, athletes from around the world at the 2009 World Winter Games received desperately needed dental care. While free dental screenings has been a regular part of Healthy Athletes for years, this was the first time that immediate, free follow-up care was available at the same location.
“Of the more than 2,000 athletes at the Games, 200 are walking around with major dental pain; 500 have some level of pain; and 1,000 have tooth decay,” said Dr. John Kriz, volunteer with Healthy Athletes and secretary/treasurer of Miles of Smiles, an organization begun three years ago to provide care to low-income school children in Boise. “Dentistry is the most underserved disease in the world.”
Learie Buchan from Special Olympics Trinidad and Tobago was one such athlete. On the last day of the World Games, he had 10 teeth extracted, dramatically improving his overall oral health.
“We want to thank you. What you are doing here is immeasurable,” said Mario Gormandy, assistant head of delegation for Trinidad and Tobago.
Treatment was provided in a mobile van parked outside the Healthy Athletes venue. The dentist office on wheels is complete with two chairs and all the equipment needed to provide direct care to patients. During the week of the World Games, more than 35 athletes received major care, including tooth extractions and fillings. All care was free of charge, but Kriz estimated that the work done each day was valued at $1,100.
“The Healthy Athletes program is wonderful, but the athletes are not very healthy,” Kriz said. “That is why this partnership is so important for us. We love our athletes and we are happy to help them. Of course, I only wish it was more preventive care. We would rather not have to do some of the work we are doing.”
The partnership between Special Olympics and Miles of Smiles was unique for both organizations. Normally, Miles of Smiles provides free care to children in the Boise public schools. “The public schools have had a fixed clinic for 50 years, but at some families are not able to get to the clinic, so we brought the clinic to them, just as we have for Healthy Athletes,” Kriz said.