Dentist office pays kids for candy


Everybody knows the famous saying: “It’s like taking candy from a baby.” A simple task, right? Well, try taking it from an elementary-aged kid at Halloween time. It requires either force, a miracle, or, as Adrian Gonzalez found out, one dollar per pound.

Adrian is the office manager of Star Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, which collected 720 pounds of candy this past fall for Operation Cash for Candy. The program, a local chapter of a national program titled Operation Gratitude (organized by the National Guard), lets children drop off leftover Halloween candy at the dentist office and gives the kids one dollar per pound of candy donated. The candy then gets mailed out to military troops abroad.

On top of donating candy, the kids also write letters to the troops and send fun photos, which are taken in a photo booth at Star Smiles.

“This lets the troops know that even kids understand, to a degree, why they’re over there and that they are thankful,” said Adrian, who’s in charge of marketing for the program. “For some kids, there’s nothing better than a bag of candy, and they’re willing to give that to soldiers overseas who can’t be home for the holiday.”

This past year, the office not only collected twice as much candy as the year before but also got four Georgetown elementary schools involved, up from one in 2011. The schools (Mitchell, Pickett, Cooper and Village) asked students to donate their leftover candy and used the money to invest in things like balls for recess and educational resources. Some of the schools even provided further incentives for donating with competitions. Winners enjoyed popcorn and Popsicle parties.

The program has other perks, too. For one, the kids inevitably eat less candy—much better for their health. And the candy doesn’t end up in landfills. “Most of that candy would be thrown away,” Adrian said. “So this way it’s not wasted and sent to someone who is more likely to eat it.”

Operation Cash for Candy was no overnight success, however. Star Smiles Pediatric Dentistry was the first dentist office in Georgetown to take advantage of the national program four years ago. The program has enjoyed steady growth ever since. Adrian has promoted the program many times at elementary schools, putting up flyers and posters around town, and spending lots on shipping. But this year, a UPS store in downtown Georgetown offered to help. “They didn’t make any profit on shipping, just charged what it cost them to do it,” Adrian said.

The dentist office starts collecting a few days after Halloween, to allow kids to enjoy some of their candy first, and ships out the candy to troops later in November. Next year, the goal is to get all elementary schools to participate.

“It’s just something from people here, so troops know people support them and are behind them and thankful for what they’re doing,” Adrian said.

Star Smiles Pediatric Dentistry

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