By Valerie Shelton, Editor
Braces are expensive, making it difficult for kids from underprivileged homes to get proper orthodontia care and confidence that comes from having a camera-ready smile.
This is a fact Mischelle DiCicco, the marketing coordinator for DiCicco Orthodontics in Fresno, knows too well, so when she won the a grand prize of $1,000 from Kona Ice’s Instagram contest she knew she wanted to donate the funds to Smile for a Lifetime, a non-profit dedicated to giving braces to kids whose families are unable to afford them.
While DiCicco works for the orthodontist office, she also wears a second hat as the president of the local chapter of Smile for a Lifetime. While the non-profit is national, the local Fresno/Clovis chapter of Smile for a Lifetime started in 2011. Since then, 29 children between the ages of 11 and 17 have been given braces through the program. DiCicco Orthodontics is highly involved with the organization, with all the braces and other orthodontic appointments for Smile for a Lifetime going through their office.
DiCicco said the local Smile for a Lifetime chapter offers up to 12 scholarships for braces a year to kids in need. Kids and their families wanting to benefit from the program go through an application process and the Smile for a Lifetime Board of Directors selects which kids receive the scholarship for free braces.
DiCicco said the kids the board chooses are often very inspirational.
“These kids are treated just like any other patients,” DiCicco said. “They are exceptional kids with high aspirations, but their teeth aren’t straight and need work so they lack confidence. That confidence is what they need to help them reach their goals so giving them that better smile boosts their confidence. That can be life-changing. Having a better smile will impact them for a lifetime.”
Alex King, 15, a freshman at Buchanan High School, is one of a handful of kids from Clovis who has received a braces scholarship through Smile for a Lifetime.
King’s cousin’s son is a regular patient at DiCicco Orthodontics and recommended him for the scholarship. In June, King was interviewed and then selected for the scholarship and in July, the braces went on.
King said he has wanted braces for a long time but because of the hefty price tag associated with braces, he said he probably would not have got them if it weren’t for Smile for a Lifetime.
“The program is about giving kids a better smile through braces and having these braces will help me my entire life,” King said.” Having my teeth fixed will make a big impact on my life. I told my mom I wanted braces because her teeth are perfect and I wanted that too. My teeth aren’t that bad, but my bottom row is crooked and the top row is a little uneven. My mom and I have talked about my getting braces for a long time but I don’t think I would have been able to get them because of the cost so this program has done a lot for me. I’ve been to two appointments [at DiCicco Orthodontics] so far and the staff is great. It’s one of my favorite places to go. When my mom says it’s time for my appointment I get excited. They are so welcoming.”
King will likely have braces until his junior year and while most high school kids may cringe at the thought of having braces, King embraces his new accessory with pride.
“I’m going to love them however long I have them,” King said. “People think braces are terrible but I love them.”
In addition to helping King with his braces, DiCicco Orthodontics also fitted King for a mouth piece for basketball. His family will still have to pay something toward the mouth piece, but at a discounted rate.
It’s the little extras like the mouth piece that DiCicco said her $1,000 donation can go toward helping with, as it’s not enough to fully fund a braces scholarship. It could also go toward extractions and other procedures that sometimes have to be done in order to facilitate braces.
DiCicco is happy to contribute what she can to Smile for a Lifetime. Winning the Kona Ice contest gave her a perfect opportunity to give back, she said.
“We had a patient appreciation event over the summer where I took a photo of my granddaughter enjoying a snow cone and Kona Ice saw and suggested I enter their Instagram giveaway,” DiCicco said. “All I had to do was post the photo on Instagram and use a hashtag for Kona Ice so I thought why not? It doesn’t hurt to add a hashtag and I ended up winning a T-shirt. Then I was told if I took a picture of Sofia in the shirt I could be entered in the grand prize drawing to win $1,000 for the charity of my choice so I did that and when I found out I won and I knew I wanted to donate my winnings to Smile for a Lifetime because it’s near and dear to my heart.”
The Kona Ice National Instagram contest (#CelebrateLife) is designed to highlight someone who is making an impact in their community.
In addition to winning $1,000, DiCicco also won a Kona Ice community party, which was held outside the DiCicco Orthodontics office on Monday, Oct. 26. Free Kona snow cones were given to families and friends in attendance.