Dentist buying Halloween candy to help troops |

Dentist buying Halloween candy to help troops

Ariella Gintzler

Glenwood dentist James Setterberg isn’t scared of zombies or goblins. He doesn’t mind giant spider webs or cardboard graveyards. What spooks him and the other dentists and hygienists who share his dental office is candy.

Halloween is just around the corner, and with it, the invasion of our pantries with bags of miniature Milky Ways and Jolly Ranchers. It’s enough to make any dentist cringe.

But Setterberg sees it as an opportunity. His office will participate in a candy buy-back program in partnership with a nonprofit called Operation Gratitude, which sends care packages to troops overseas and first responders here at home.

From Nov. 1-3, participants of any age can bring their candy into Setterberg’s office and receive $1 per pound, up to 5 pounds. In addition to selling their candy, participants are encouraged to donate new toothbrushes and unopened travel-sized toothpaste, mouthwash, floss or lip balm. Setterberg’s office plans to donate one toothbrush for every participant who sells back candy.

Participants can also bring handwritten letters or drawings — or color one of the many pictures Setterberg’s office will have on hand at the buy-back station in the waiting room of his offices at 401 23rd St. in Glenwood Springs.

All candy, letters and donated items will be shipped to Operation Gratitude headquarters in Chatsworth, California. There, they will be organized into care packages along with items from other donors around the country, and sent to servicemen and -women.

“The idea is to offer kids a healthy and productive alternative to candy,” said Melody De Los Santos, a receptionist at Setterberg’s office. “It’s not just about getting the candy out of the household. It’s teaching kids about selflessness, about finding satisfaction in bringing smiles to other peoples faces.”

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 19 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 have unattended cavities. While telling a kid not to eat candy is often unrealistic, the members of Setterberg’s practice hope that the buy-back program will provide an opportunity for parents to re-emphasize the importance of proper dental hygiene.

As an additional incentive to encourage kids to give up some of their Halloween booty, Setterberg’s office will be handing out toothbrushes and goody bags, which will include Halloween-themed prizes, coupons and sugar-free candies.

Kids aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the buy-back event.

“The care packages offer a morale boost for the troops,” said De Los Santos. “And also gives troops an opportunity to bond with communities overseas, by doling the candy out to local children.” Parents can visit the Operation Gratitude website with their kids to see videos of troops opening care packages, and reading letters handwritten by previous Operation Gratitude donors.

The Halloween candy buy-back event is the first in a string of charitable events that Setterberg’s office plans. Throughout October, the office is donating half of all proceeds from oral cancer screenings to Truth 365, an organization that raises awareness for childhood cancer. In November, the office will run a food drive to benefit Feed My Sheep, a local homeless ministry. In February will feature the annual Give the Kids a Smile event, providing free dentistry to children in without health insurance or Medicaid.

“We want to stay involved with the local community, to remind people about the importance of oral health,” said De Los Santos. “Oral health is truly the gateway to overall health.”

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