Neal Smiles Orthodontics team members pack up candy donations for the Candy Buy-back program. Courtesy of Neal Smiles Orthodontics.

Orthodontist helps community fight cavities and hunger through candy buy-back program

A local orthodontist office is giving back to the community during its sixth annual candy buy-back program for local schools and community members to donate their Halloween candy.

Neal Smiles Orthodontics has partnered with Northwest Harvest, a statewide hunger relief agency, to buy candy back from the community and seven local elementary schools. The office will be collecting candy from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 3 and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 6.

“Our team at Neal Smiles really values building community and giving back to the community, which has given us so much,” head orthodontist Michelle Neal said.

Previously, Neal Smiles had partnered with an organization that sent the candy to U.S. troops, but the organization discontinued the program.

“We initially started the candy buy-back program to reward those patients that would give back some of their candy to help support our troops,” Neal said. “This year, Northwest Harvest will be receiving the candy and we will be able give treats to people who otherwise struggle with the little extras.”

Northwest Harvest maintains a network of 375 food banks, meal programs and high-needs schools throughout Washington.

Neal Smiles’ candy buy-back program collected more than 2,000 pounds of candy each year in 2015 and 2016.

Veronica Dawson, treatment coordinator at Neal smile, said this year, she expects to match those numbers for Northwest Harvest.

Neal Smiles will buy back each pound of candy for $1 and provide a scale for any community member to drop off donations. In addition, Neal will match the participating schools’ earnings and donate that amount to each school’s PTSA.

The class that collects the most candy between the seven schools will also earn a pizza party for their class. Neal Smiles staff will visit the class and provide the pizza, drinks and cookies.

“Partnering with the local schools has been a fantastic partnership,” Neal said. “The parents are happy to not have all of the extra candy in the house, the kids are happy because they get to compete with other classes for a pizza party and we are able to give thousands of dollars back to the schools and the kids and contribute to their oral health.”

According to Dawson, the kids get excited about donating the candy, even though they give away their own Halloween candy.

“I think, for the most part, what kids do is they sort the candy they don’t want,” Dawson said with a laugh. “And you know, if the kids are in braces they’re restricted on the types of candy they can have. So they can have all the chocolate they want but nothing hard or sticky.”

This buy-back program started out as a way to benefit patients’ health, Neal said, and gave them an easy way to donate to charity.

“It has since grown into a much bigger activity with tremendous community involvement,” she said.

Neal Smiles Orthodontics will be collecting candy at 9750 N.E. 120th Pl. Suites 5/6 in Kirkland.

Kokanee, Alexander Graham Bell, Carl Sandburg, Ben Franklin, Arrowhead and Juanita elementary schools and Finn Hill Middle School will be participating in the program.

“We encourage (kids) to dress up if they do come in outside of the school and wear a costume when they come to bring their candy in,” Dawson said.

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