How Healthy Learners gives children a reason to smile

How Healthy Learners gives children a reason to smile

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Getting a pair of eyeglasses. Having a bad tooth fixed. Just knowing someone is watching over your health.

These are the simple, yet extremely significant, services provided to children through the Healthy Learners program. And a game of golf next week will be the driving force to keep the care flowing.

There’s a beautiful reason 9-year-old Ali can grin.

The fourth grader is being treated at Well Partners Children’s Dental Clinic. It’s inside the Richland County Health Department.

“You brush your teeth, the top for 30 seconds and then the bottom 30 seconds. Like every single, two times a day. Morning and night,” Ali said.

Dr. Dmitriy Denissenko of Richland Northeast Dental steps away from his dental practice to volunteer his time here.

On this visit, Ali has a cavity -- something that is being fixed thanks to Healthy Learners, a nonprofit ministry of the Sisters of Charity at Providence Health.

Healthy Learners stays in constant contact with school officials who identify children, like Ali, who, for a variety of reasons, are not able to receive proper health care.

Last year, he had to have a bad tooth taken out. He knows the people here care about him even if he doesn’t understand the procedure.

”They can take your tooth out if you don’t want it. It’s weird though," Ali said. “Like they have, I don’t know what they use, but they use like a stick that is hard to -- they stick it to your tooth and they twisted around so it makes it wiggly.”

Children identified as needing care are brought to the dental clinic -- or it could be to an eye doctor or another medical service -- to receive whatever treatment needed so the child can reach his or her full potential.

Much of the money to provide the needed resources comes from the annual Champions for Children Golf Tournament.

In 27 years of Healthy Learners working to remove children’s health barriers to learning, the nonprofit has served 14,000 children and provided more than 70,000 services. Healthy Learners reaches 150 schools in 12 school districts in seven counties of South Carolina.

It enhances the lives of little ones like Ali, who now has his own advice for other kids afraid to go to the dentist.

”Just be brave. The lesson is to be brave. Do not be scared,” he confidently said.

That gives him one more reason to smile.

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