The 2013 Kansas Mission of Mercy offered both a chance to reflect upon the ten years of service volunteers have provided and to look forward to the future. Meanwhile, 1650 patients were treated during the two-day clinic held at the Kansas Coliseum in Park City, KS.
Approximately 1100 volunteers, that included 150 dentists, played a part in this year’s event.
“This is a testament to the dedicated residents of Park City, Wichita and the state of Kansas,” said Angie Holladay, one of the three co-chairs of the 2013 event. “This project is a huge task and having the support of over seventy-five local donors and businesses made it happen.”
Volunteers worked around the clock beginning at 8 am on Thursday for setup until the last patient was treated at 6 pm on Saturday. An overnight shift organized patients who arrived early for dental care on both Thursday and Friday nights.
“Many of the volunteers spent fourteen hours each day to ensure the patients had a positive, caring experience from the time they were served breakfast at 4 am,” Holladay said. “We have always been proud to be Kansans, but never more than we were watching this KMOM.”
The first patient arrived for dental care at 10:30 am on Thursday. Tera Hardie and Cathy Pickens, sisters from Russell, KS, were the first patients to enter the KMOM clinic on Thursday night when doors for overnight waiting opened at 9:30 pm. Being patient number one was their goal, just as they had been in 2006 when the clinic last came to the Wichita area. In 2006, Hardie received extensive care at the KMOM clinic and her sister, who did receive some treatment, took care of her and drove her home. This time it was Pickens who was planning to receive dental care and her sister was there for support.
“We can’t afford health and dental insurance and we have three kids who still live at home,” Pickens said. “I think it is really awesome and a great opportunity for people who can’t afford it.”
Throughout the day on Thursday, volunteers helped put the dental clinic in place, setting up chairs, dental units and tables as well as organizing sterilization and central supply. In the evening on Thursday, the project held a celebration to recognize the ten-year anniversary of the KMOM clinic that opened its doors to the very first patient on February 28, 2003.
“You are a bright spot in the world right now,” said Park City Mayor Emil Bergquist as he welcomed the volunteers to his city on Thursday night. “You are a blessing to people over the next two days.” Bergquist spoke to nearly two hundred volunteers in attendance at the celebration in a suit and tie, but on Friday and Saturday, both he and his wife Ralene served as general volunteers for the clinic.
The celebration included a video that looked back on the ten-year history of the project along with interviews with both Drs. Jon Tilton and Jeff Stasch, who brought the KMOM idea to Kansas.
“All of us make this possible,” Stasch said as he spoke to the volunteers. “Your life is richer because of the experience.”
After the clinic on Friday, the location for the 2014 project was unveiled as Dodge City. That event will take place on February 28-March 1st at the Western State Bank Expo Center.
“We are very excited that the next project is coming to Dodge City,” said Richard McFadden of Dodge City who will chair next year’s event. McFadden was on hand for the entire project, taking notes and meeting individually with key department organizers.
The project wrapped up on Saturday with a special recognition to Bruce Bergstrom who has served the past five years as the Executive Director of the America’s Dentists Care Foundation. Bergstrom is set to retire later this year. A quilt, made by Dr. Julie Swift and her mother, from t-shirts of past KMOM projects was auctioned. The fundraiser raised $2500 for the Kansas Dental Charitable Foundation.
“It isn’t nearly enough to say, but we thank you and we will never forget what you have done for adults and children in need,” Holladay said. “We can’t wait for the next one and we hope to see many of you in Dodge City in 2014.”