Tooth decay has been cited as one of the most chronic childhood diseases today in the United States and there’s a dental service rolling on wheels through Beaufort County to combat it.
Thanks to an annual contribution from Beaufort County Council for the past 15 years, nearly 20,000 Beaufort County children have had the opportunity to receive quality dental care, often for the first time in their life, by hopping aboard the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.
“If not treated early, dental decay becomes painful, irreversible and can lead to extensive and costly long-term effects,” said Dr. Barbara Washington, supervising dentist for the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Program and director of dental services for Beaufort Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health Services.
“Untreated dental disease adversely affects a child’s ability to eat well, sleep well and function well at school and at home. Our main goal with this program is to ensure that children in our community are healthy. Helping them feel good about their smile is an added bonus.”
Additionally, “all of the partners are proud of the program and are committed to continued collaboration to positively impact the lives of local children who would not otherwise receive the oral care they need,” said Monica Spells, an assistant county administrator at Beaufort County and its liaison for the dental program. “The county’s partnership with RMHC and BJHCHS is a perfect example of the county’s commitment to community services. Now, we really need help from the local community to support a mobile unit replacement fund to keep this critical service available for children in our area.”
Residents of Beaufort County who are needed to serve on a volunteer advisory committee for the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile Program to help with fundraising efforts. The committee would work in tandem with the local RMHC board.
The program receives about 40 percent of its $200,000 operating budget from Beaufort County Council as a community service grant allocation.
Approximately 45 percent of the budget comes from the RMHC operating budget and grants or donations and the remaining 15 percent is provided through Medicaid reimbursement.
Proceeds from pop tabs off aluminum cans also help with program funding. Depending on the volume collected and the price of aluminum, pop tabs turned into BJHCHS and RMHC can yield as much as $5,000 annually. Some funding also comes via the United Way of the Lowcountry in Beaufort.
Pop tabs from aluminum cans can be dropped off at the BJHCHS Administrative Office located at 721 N. Okatie Highway (S.C. 170) in Okatie
The group is also seeking donations including toothbrushes for children and travel-size toothpaste, which are included in home kits provided to the children who receive services. Stickers and pencils are also needed to help add some excitement to the kits.
Anyone seeking information about volunteering on the Care Mobile Advisory Committee or making a donation to the replacement fund should contact Bill Sorochak at bill@RMHCcoastalempire.org or 912-350-7641 ext. 304.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire Inc. donated the mobile unit in December of 2001 for operation in Beaufort County, making it the first in this area and the ninth in the nation.
Today, there are 49 units operating in the United States and abroad focusing on providing access to healthcare where children need it most. Services range from treatment of pediatric cancer to immunizations.