National children’s dental provider Kool Smiles collected more than four tons (8,594 pounds) of Halloween candy during its sixth annual Operation Troop Treats, the nation’s largest dentist-sponsored Halloween candy exchange benefiting U.S. service members and their families. Designed to promote good dental health while giving deployed U.S. troops a “sweet” reminder of home during the holiday season, Operation Troop Treats is a partnership between Kool Smiles and Operation Gratitude. More than 450 dentists from 123 Kool Smiles offices in 14 states and the District of Columbia were involved in this year’s effort. In addition to the Halloween candy, Kool Smiles is donating dental kits and the funds to cover the assembly and shipment of 200 care packages.
Operation Troop Treats encourages children and families to exchange their Halloween candy for toys at participating Kool Smiles offices nationwide and has generated more than 12 tons of donated Halloween candy and sponsored the shipment of 1,200 care packages to U.S. troops stationed overseas since 2012. Along with thousands of individual donations, several children partnered with Kool Smiles to organize their own community-wide candy collection drives as part of this year’s Operation Troop Treats:
Lauren Fenty, age 11, lost her father in Afghanistan when she was only 28 days old. Inspired by his memory, two Halloweens ago, Lauren went in search of a way to support the troops and organized her first school-wide Halloween candy collection effort at John B. Dey Elementary School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Lauren collected more than 770 pounds of candy from her fellow students that first year. Now in middle school, Lauren continues to be involved in the Halloween candy exchange at the elementary school each year. This year, Lauren collected more than 600 pounds of candy and worked with the Kool Smiles office in Virginia Beach to send the candy to Operation Gratitude. Kool Smiles also gave Lauren a check to donate to her local Operation Smile chapter in exchange for the candy collection. Lauren’s candy collection efforts this year included outreach to her middle school AVID program, a social media and emailing campaign to rally greater support, and neighborhood canvassing. To date, Lauren has collected more than 2,100 pounds of candy and raised enough money, when coupled with KoolSmiles contributions, to pay for 14 cleft palate surgeries through Operation Smile.
In Washington, D.C., Eli and Jonah Zucker, ages 9 and 10, came up with a plan to support U.S. troops while also helping U.S. hurricane and wildfire victims. They approached the Takoma Park Kool Smiles office about organizing a candy collection for Operation Troop Treats in exchange for a donation to disaster relief organizations providing aid to communities affected by the recent hurricanes and wildfires. The Takoma Park office pledged to donate $2 for every pound of candy collected, up to 150 pounds. The boys collected more than 150 pounds of candy for Operation Troop Treats, and Kool Smiles gave them a check for $300 to be distributed to disaster relief organizations through Youth Venture, a youth social entrepreneurship organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.
The hallmark of Operation Gratitude care packages has always been that each one is personally addressed to an individual service member. This customization lets the recipient know that he or she is acknowledged, respected and remembered as an individual serving our country. One soldier wrote: “Want to know what really grabbed me when I got my package? It was addressed to me. My name was on the box. It wasn’t just a box. It was my box. I wasn’t just any soldier, I was somebody, I am somebody.”
To learn more about Operation Gratitude, its founder, and the troops it serves, grab a tissue and watch this video:
Operation Troop Treats is made possible by a generous donation from the Benevis Foundation. For more information on the program, click HERE.
To find out more about Benevis affiliate opportunities on JoinDSO.com click HERE.
To find out more about Benevis & Kool Smiles career opportunities on JoinDSO.com click HERE.