Healthy Smiles in Pocahontas
Hillsboro, WV – It’s orange, has a lime green handle, and is covered with bright eye-catching stickers. Open it up and you’ll find a plastic carrot with some surprises of its own, and even more stickers. It’s a special lunchbox filled with information about keeping your teeth healthy, and students at Hillsboro and Green Bank Elementary schools got to take one home last week.
It’s part of the Lessons in a Lunchbox program, the brainchild of Dr. Winifred Booker. Dr. Booker says the inspiration for the lunchbox came during an ordinary trip to the store.
“In 2004, I went to the store to buy a lunchbox for my nephew, and it had Spiderman on it,” Booker said. “It was just so brilliant and jumping off the lunchbox; it just dawned on me to create this lunchbox.”
Booker is a pediatric dentist, and she’s been in practice for about 23 years. She’s also involved directly with the organization providing the lunchboxes.
“I am the CEO,” said Booker. “That makes this program happen.”
This is the second cycle for the lunch box giveaways. In 2008, schools in Nebraska and Tennessee received the first set of lunchboxes. Another 10,000 will be distributed in this cycle. Joining Booker for the presentation was Dr. Louise Veselicky, Dean of the School of Dentistry at West Virginia University. She explains how she got involved in the program.
“I met Dr. Booker a couple years ago,” said Veselicky. “She met with hall the deans of detal schools across the United States. At that point, she gave each of us a lunchbox. We were looking, in West Virginia–we were trying to find some of the most dentally underserved areas. We selected Pocahontas County. We wanted to come here and launch our program for West Virginia.”
Dr. Veselicky says access to dental care is a problem in West Virginia, especially in the more rural parts of the state.
“We as a dental school have started a West Virginia University oral health initiative, where we’re going to try to work actively with communities,” Veselicky said. “We have a rural site program, where our students go into rural communities and practice dentistry.”
Of course, the children only cared about getting those bright orange boxes. After a cartoon about dental care, WVU dentistry students used hand puppets to show the kids the proper way to brush and floss, then handed out the lunchboxes. Each one contains a dental carrot, toothpaste and a miniature sand timer. Inside the carrot is a toothbrush and floss. The timer is a handy visual aid to remind kids how long to brush.
In addition to fostering good dental care, Dr. Veselicky is hoping this will inspire some children in other ways.
“I’m hoping that some of these children, today, will not only practice good hygiene habits but consider a career in dentistry,” said Veselicky. “We haven’t had a student from Pocahontas County in almost 10 years.”
The lunchboxes, given to the kids at no charge, are paid for through grants and corporate sponsorship. Pocahontas and Wayne counties are the only West Virginia counties that will receive the lunchboxes in this cycle.