If there is one thing many people have been longing for this past year, it is to be able to get out for an evening of enjoyment. If that sounds like your idea of paradise, the staff and board of directors of the Kids’ Community Dental Clinic (KCDC) are hoping the pandemic will soon be in the rear-view mirror so they can provide locals with just that as they make plans for their annual “Casino Paradise” fundraiser.
Always a popular event, this evening of high-rolling fun – held on the plaza of Media Studios North – has become a Burbank tradition that offers participants the opportunity to enjoy live music, sample exotic beverages with their buffet dinner, peruse an elaborate silent auction, and tangle with Lady Luck, all while raising funds to provide oral healthcare services for children from low-income working families.
“Because of the pandemic, we weren’t able to do our casino night last year, but we are moving forward with plans to do it this year,” said Dale Morimizu Gorman, the clinic’s executive director. “It’s something people look forward to, and it is also a vital part of our annual fundraising program, so we’re hoping to do it on Sept. 18. We may be doing it a bit differently this year, but we’re going to hold that information until the time gets closer.”
Last year, KCDC’s board made the decision that, instead of doing a virtual fundraiser, they would send out invitations asking those who have supported them in the past to continue to do so.
“We sent a deck of ‘no casino’ cards as a thank you to both our supporters and also to the businesses who have donated to our silent auction,” said Gorman. “We weren’t sure how that would work, but we brought in almost the same amount [of money] as if we had the casino night, which really says a lot for our supporters.”
Created to fill a crucial need after the pediatric dental clinic at St. Joseph Medical Center closed in 1997, the doors of what was initially known as the Kids’ Community Clinic of Burbank opened in the Burbank YMCA in 2002.
In 2004, the clinic’s name was changed to emphasize its commitment to provide treatment to families who live outside Burbank and found a home on the campus of the William McKinley Elementary School.
Staffed by local dentists and fourth-year dental students from UCLA who volunteer their time and services, children from 6 months of age through 18 years are eligible for a free oral assessment by one of the clinic’s dental professionals from now through April 9. If necessary, they will also receive one dental treatment such as a cleaning, filling, sealant or fluoride application at no cost.
“We are doing this in conjunction with the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile event,” said Gorman. “We’re providing free services to anyone without question of eligibility. We wanted to do this for children who may have a parent that has been laid off or lost their job, but it’s for any child who has an issue, a question, or maybe just hasn’t been to a dentist in a long time.”
Admitting that the pandemic has created an arduous environment for the clinic as well as for parents and children, Gorman said she has been doing all she can to keep KCDC up and running.
“I’ve had to work from home because, as an administrative person, I’m non-essential,” she explained. “I took this time to do grant writing to get all of the funding we could from the government. We have also been providing our oral care educational programs virtually and we did a very successful drive-thru program in partnership with local schools where dentists would answer questions, parents would receive updates on our services and be assured that the clinic accepts Denti-Cal, which is provided through Medi-Cal, and kids would get educational information and a goodie bag.”
Although the clinic was closed for three months at the beginning of the pandemic, Gorman said they always kept at least one person in the building.
“All of our staff self-furloughed but we were finally able to recall everyone back in June,” she said. “When we did get back up and running, we found a lot of our patients had issues: cavities, cracked teeth, the need for root canals and crowns…so we have been very busy. We have put every safety measure possible in place. We have HAPA [High Efficiency Particulate Air] filter systems, Plexiglass partitions, and we’re abiding by the strictest safety protocols from the Center for Disease Control and the Los Angeles County Public Health Department to protect our patients, staff, volunteers and dental professionals.”
Admitting that the past year has been a challenge, Gorman said she really appreciates those who have stood by them and continued their volunteer, financial and vocal support.
“Our regular dentists have had challenges in their own practices, so for a while we lost some of our dentists who have since come back,” she said. “We are grateful for them and are always looking for new volunteer dentists. As for the community, it means so much to our entire staff when we hear from people who tell us how much they appreciate what we do. That makes you forget about all the challenges.”
For more information on the Kids’ Community Dental Clinic and its services, call (818) 841-8010 for assistance in English or Spanish or visit www.kidsclinic.org.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.