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New program worth smiling about

Local orthodontist offers scholarships for free braces

New program worth smiling about

New program worth smiling about

Dr. Michael Wall

    A Statesboro orthodontist and his staff hope to make a difference in the lives of young people by giving them a reason to smile.
    A new endeavor being undertaken by Dr. Michael Wall, of Wall Orthodontics, will provide middle and high school-aged children throughout Bulloch and surrounding counties with dental scholarships to receive care their families otherwise could not afford.
    Wall has founded a regional chapter of Smiles for a Lifetime, a nonprofit organization with the mission of making braces available for children in need.
    The program will offer free braces and follow-up dental care to at least six children during the next year, said Missy Brown, the treatment coordinator for Wall Orthodontics and executive director of the local Smiles for a Lifetime chapter.
    “What this program is going to do is provide free orthodontic scholarships for under-served individuals who are unable to afford braces due to financial reasons or special circumstances,” Brown said. “We will give away one scholarship, one set of braces, every two months throughout the year.
    “What we want to do is create self-confidence and inspire hope for children in the community,” she continued. “If the recipients can have that, in a dramatic way, then they can prosper and feel good about themselves.”
    Brown said the idea of bringing the program to Statesboro was hatched by Wall after he spoke with a fellow orthodontist who had taken part in another Smiles for a Lifetime chapter.
    “We thought that this would be a great idea with the way the economy is,” Brown said. “We have patients come in all of the time that really need braces but whose family can’t afford it. This is our way of helping.”
    For Wall, the program is an opportunity to give back and “pay it forward.”
    “The mission is to create self-confidence, inspire hope and change the lives of children in our community who are unable to afford braces,” Wall said. “The gift of a smile can do all of this for a deserving, underserved individual who, in turn, can use this to better themselves and our community.”
    The scholarships can better serve the community, Brown said, because the gift serves a dual purpose.
    Individuals selected to receive scholarships must also commit to completing at least 10 hours of community service through a local charity, she said.
    To become one of six first-year recipients of free braces, interested individuals must complete an extensive application process and be chosen by 10 local professionals who make up the foundation’s Board of Directors.
    Brown said applicants can be referred by teachers, counselors, friends, family members and dentists, or they can simply contact Wall Orthodontics. They must submit a completed handwritten questionnaire, which collects information to determine need and asks why the applicant deserves and would like the scholarship, along with two letters of recommendation and a headshot that showcases the child’s smile.
    Applicants must be between 11 and 16 years old, enrolled in school, have a positive attitude and, ideally, be active in the community, Brown said.   
    The scholarship is open to children in Bulloch, Emanuel, Chandler, Treutlen, Screven, Effingham, Bryan and other counties, she said.
    The Board of Directors will review all applications and choose those who are most qualified.
    “The scholarship will go to someone who truly deserves it,” Brown said.
    The 10 individuals who have been chosen to serve on the Smiles for a Lifetime board are Dr. James High, Laura Marsh, Chad Averitt, Russ Lanier, Father Brett Brannen, Rod Uribe, Emily Wildes, Dr. Jarrett Walden, Kelly Burns and Trey Robertson.
    The first award recipient will be named and honored at the end of June, Brown said. The next round of applications will begin in July.
    Brown hopes to see the program grow and eventually be able to provide a greater number of braces throughout the year. Toward that end, an account has been established for donations, she said.

        Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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