Candy and cavities are known to go hand in hand, which is why Santa Clarita Advanced Dentistry has set up an annual candy donation event for kids in kindergarten through high school.
On Tuesday, Santa Clarita Advanced Dentistry opened up its workspace to host its 15th annual Letter Writing Campaign & Kids Karnival.
Dr. Kelly Smudde was struggling with her own children’s love for candy and wanted to teach them the importance of donating. To solve two of her problems, she decided to have them donate something meaningful to them.
“I thought, ‘They got to donate something that means the world to them, that they just don’t want to donate,’ so we were like, ‘Candy!’” said Smudde.
That is how she discovered Operation Gratitude.
Operation Gratitude is a charity dedicated to honoring the service of military and first responders by creating opportunities to express gratitude, primarily though the creation of care packages.
Smudde worked through Santa Clarita Advanced Dentistry, in collaboration with Operation Gratitude, to create this annual event in which candy donations could be donated toward care packages for the troops.
As some extra incentives, $1 would be rewarded for every pound of excess Halloween candy donated and games would be available to play at the office suite.
Every year the event continues to evolve, but this year Smudde received a call from Operation Gratitude stating that they could no longer accept candy donations from unknown sources. However, instead of candy, they asked for letters.
“’We want letters and letters means so much to the troops,’” said Smudde, referencing her phone call with Operation Gratitude.
Letter writing is a skill that is slowly dissipating in a technologically modern society. Smudde had to come up with another incentive to bring the kids in to physically write these letters and that is when Tori Plascencia, part of the office’s community relations team, shared the idea of having a competition between the schools.
Kids from the K-12 grade levels were challenged to see who could write the most letters. Whichever school wrote the most letters would be rewarded with $500.
“(It) help(s) motivate the kids to just give back to the school and the community at the same time,” said Plascencia.
Not only did the kids get to write their letters at the event, but also personally hand them to U.S. Army soldiers as a thank you for their service.
“It melts your heart,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Bricen G. Thompson. “That’s what makes this job awesome.”
By the end of the event, 955 pounds of candy was collected and Westside Christian Schools wrote the most letters. Following close were Mountainview Elementary School, Meadows Elementary School and Old Orchard Elementary School.