School dental pioneer wins national award“Some days I doubted it,” Stacey Anderson said with a chuckle. The founder of Just Kids Dental Health said she “felt like the little train that could” when she began offering dental services to children at North Shore schools in 2006.
By: Mike Creger, Lake County News Chronicle
“Some days I doubted it,” Stacey Anderson said with a chuckle. The founder of Just Kids Dental Health said she “felt like the little train that could” when she began offering dental services to children at North Shore schools in 2006.
She borrowed and used her own savings to fulfill a dream to provide free dental care for children with families that can’t afford it.
From humble beginnings, Anderson has built a beloved program that has now won a national award. Out of thousands of nominations, just six people are named Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award winners each year. Anderson, who lives in Two Harbors, was nominated by Nancy Smith, the director of health services for the Superior School District in Wisconsin.
Just Kids Dental provides a mobile clinic education and hygiene service to 17 schools in the region, including Lake County. Many children receive sealants to prevent tooth decay.
There is no cost to the families served or the schools. The program is reimbursed through the federal Medicaid program, accounting for half of costs, and community grants and fund-raising. Just Kids has a staff of three people.
Cherokee is a uniform company for the health industry. Each grand prize Comfort winner receives a Caribbean cruise for two, a wardrobe of uniforms, a trophy and a gold-plated pin.
It’s not about the bling for Anderson. It’s the kids. “We’ve built relationships, some for four years now,” she said. “It’s very rewarding” to see her work in the smiling students with healthy teeth.
And she won’t rest. “We want to expand to more uninsured children,” she said. “We want to build on the clinic.”
Praise for the program is strong in the Lake Superior School District.
“You can just tell they like working with kids,” Silver Bay school nurse Karen Brostrom said.
“The kids love going to it,” Minnehaha Elementary administrative assistant Ronnie Sandretsky said. “It’s so simple, you can’t pass it up.”
The schools in Two Harbors and Silver Bay have seen a rise in participants each year. “Word has traveled,” Sandretsky said. Just Kids goes to the schools in the fall and spring. In Silver Bay, Brostrom said 30 kids were part of the program this fall.
Both said Anderson and Just Kids is more than deserving of the national award. “It’s a great thing, Sandretsky said. “They do a fabulous job.”