In late February, I travelled to Oklahoma as the Native American ToothFairy for my Dreamstarter Project. I was very grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with my former P.E. Coach, Scott Robison, who is the Community Health Director at Wewoka Indian Health Center, and Kandice Lowry, RN, BSN, the School Wellness Nurse to reach nearly 1,600 students with oral health education! We visited several schools including Justice, Sasakwa, Konawa, Northwood in Seminole, Varnum, Wetumka, and Butner.
As the Native American ToothFairy, I spoke with the students about the importance of oral health. Each participating student received a goodie bag filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, coloring book and crayons. They also received a brushing chart as a tool to help remind them to brush their teeth twice a day. In an effort to encourage our youth to make good choices and stay away from drugs, I educated the older students about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the mouth. They were shown pictures of meth mouth and learned about young people who had to get dentures as a result of drug abuse. During the presentations, I also encourage them to visit the dentist regularly. Far too often, teachers tell me about a child in their class who is suffering from a toothache. In some instances, that child will come up to me during my presentation and show me the tooth that is hurting them. It is heartbreaking to hear a child ask how they are supposed to brush their teeth if they don't have a toothbrush. I was glad to be able to provide that particular little girl with the tools she needs to have a healthy smile. When you have families living in poverty and worried about where their next meal is going to come from, the last thing on their mind is making sure their child has a toothbrush. Believe it or not, a toothbrush is a luxury for some families.
I would like to acknowledge the individuals and organizations that helped make this educational outreach possible. Thank you to Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation for supporting my Dreamstarter project. America’s ToothFairy: National Children's Oral Health Foundation provided toothbrushes and educational materials, and the Wewoka Indian Health Center and Kenda Lowe provided toothpaste, floss, coloring books and crayons. With your help, children were given the basic tools they need to keep their smile healthy!
I greatly appreciate Coach Scott Robison and Kandice Lowry, RN, BSN for their help in coordinating and scheduling the school presentations. When I was a little girl, Coach Scott Robison was my coach,and he has always been an inspirational person in my life. I really enjoyed spending the week with his family and his students. I am grateful that he continues to make a difference in the lives of his students by helping them realize their potential and simply believing in their ability to do great things. (Scott was also my jump rope coach back in the day, so it was definitely a treat and brought back fond memories seeing his kids at jump rope practice!)
My family and I also travelled to Tahlequah, Oklahoma to visit the Cherokee Nation Immersion School and meet with fellow Dreamstarter, Brian Barlow. Unfortunately, I woke up feeling very ill. My family delivered the oral health products on my behalf. They were so excited to tell me about a little girl they met who told them that she has never had a cavity. She also said her dad has never had a cavity, either! I am very grateful to my family for their support and help on this trip! A special thank you to my son for being such a good baby, my mom for taking good care of him, Vik for driving and Reyna for being our navigator while in Oklahoma.
On March 12th, Jill Malmgren, my Dreamstarter project mentor and Executive Director of America’s ToothFairy, and I visited Wheelhouse Foundation Studio in Charlotte, NC to record my part of the oral health video. It was such a fun experience being in front of a camera as the Native American ToothFairy! I was really nervous at first, but Jill and the Wheelhouse Media team were great coaches. I am confident that the video will make a difference in the lives of Native American children across the country by motivating them to take care of their teeth.
Author: Kristina Hyatt
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