Mission of Mercy - It's all heart

By Lani Becker, Mission of Mercy project coordinator, lbecker@wda.org

The second Mission of Mercy in Sheboygan was another huge success with 2,038 children and adults receiving more than $880,000 in free dental care.

The doors have closed for the Wisconsin Dental Association and WDA Foundation’s second Mission of Mercy event held June 25 and 26 in Sheboygan. And by all accounts, it was another huge success!

The patient goal was exceeded with 2,038 children and adults receiving more than $880,000 in free dental care.

MOM is not just about numbers. I wanted to take this opportunity to focus on the real heart of MOM – the people involved. From the planning committees, onsite volunteers and patients themselves, these individuals are what make MOM special.

Starting Point

Planning for MOM usually starts 17 months before the event. It begins with local dentists expressing a desire to host the two-day event in their community and submitting a site evaluation to the WDA Mission of Mercy committee.

The 20-question evaluation examines availability of a large venue (approximately 35,000 square feet minimum), overnight lodging for volunteers, community resources to help provide food and beverage for patients and volunteers, dentists and dental lab in the area in support of MOM.

Even before Dr. Mark Huberty (Sheboygan) attended the first MOM in La Crosse in June 2009, he knew this was something he wanted to be involved in and bring to his community. He submitted a site evaluation for the second annual event in February 2009.

“It took everyone coming together for this mission to succeed. It was truly heartwarming to see the best in people from such diverse groups all coming together in the aid of another. It is an experience I will never forget,” Dr. Huberty said.

It was an easy choice to select Sheboygan for MOM 2010 because all requirements were met. Committee members felt this was an ideal location because there was a large, but manageable patient base.

The MOM Committee requested approval from the WDA Board of Trustees to move forward with the 2010 project. Upon the completion of the first MOM, the project received full approval in July 2009.

Breaking it Down

Every detail of the event is identified and assigned to the appropriate person for follow-up. MOM State chair Dr. Gene Shoemaker (Waukesha) headed up the state MOM Committee for the second year in a row.

State committee responsibilities include developing a clinic floor plan, organizing department protocols, determining supplies needed and creating patient flow.

This committee consisted of various department leads in charge of running their respective areas, local co-chairs and other key individuals as well as the staff project coordinator. Additional WDA staff provided necessary resources for public relations and government relations and administrative tasks.

A local committee also was formed and begin meeting in early 2010. They coordinated support services for the event including hospitality, EMT service, onsite plumbing and electrical needs, towels and waste disposal.

They acted as leads for medical triage, patient registration, education and exit interviews as well as data entry. Local committee members worked hard to secure funds and solicit in-kind donations from the community.

Together, these two committees covered prep work necessary to open the clinic doors.

It’s Finally Here

After months of planning and preparation, it was time to setup the equipment on the clinic floor before welcoming in patients.

Equipment is owned and transported by the America’s Dentists Care Foundation and came to us after being used at Illinois’ first Mission of Mercy event two weeks prior.

A team of 953 volunteers from 158 Wisconsin communities and 10 states provided free care at MOM.

ADCF employees and board members attended MOM and shared their wisdom and expertise after working more than 60 MOM events.

A four-person team from the Georgia Dental Association observed the event in preparation for their first mission scheduled for August 2011. Other out-of-state guests came from Illinois, Oregon and Colorado.

After eight and a half hours unloading the truck and setting up the clinic, patients started to form the line outside. The first four patients waited in line for almost 20 hours after setting up a tent at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. Nearly 400 people were in line by Friday morning.

Many volunteers “walked the line” to talk to patients and find what brought them to MOM. Each had a different story to tell, but all were appreciative of the care they were receiving.

Patients ranged in age from a 1-year-old boy to a 91-year-old woman. They traveled from more than 158 cities and towns across Wisconsin and several other states to obtain care at this large-scale, charitable event. Clinic doors opened at 6 a.m. with care concluding by 5:30 p.m. both days.

A total of 7,784 dental procedures were performed, including 1,554 fillings, 1,576 teeth extracted, 713 cleanings and 15 root canals. Several dental labs worked with volunteer technicians to create 86 partial dentures.

A team of 953 volunteers from 158 Wisconsin communities and 10 states provided the free care. Among the volunteers were 180 dentists, 120 dental hygienists, 160 Marquette University School of Dentistry students and numerous dental assistants and lay people.

No doubt these were long days, but at the end of two days we still managed to attend a group dinner to share our stories, celebrate our accomplishments and reflect on the differences we made in people’s lives.

A big thank you to the heart of MOM! We appreciate your time and talents in making this event possible.

Photos by Alec Paget

*This article first appeared in the September 2010 issue of the WDA Journal. 

Last updated Sept. 7, 2010 2:19 p.m.