By Jeanne Sager
HURLEYVILLE September 12, 2003 All it takes is a smile.
One glimpse at those gums and folks make up an opinion about you.
Just ask Dyan Campbell. The national director of the PRASAD Project, a non-profit program that brings dental hygiene to low-income children, Campbell knows what a difference a toothbrush makes.
It makes a lifelong difference in people if they have nice teeth, she said.
PRASAD has been operating in Sullivan County since 1997, heading into the different school districts to educate children about the importance of brushing and avoiding sugar-laden goodies.
Now the organization needs some help from the community cleaning 2,000 sets of teeth means a lot of toothpaste and drill bits.
A bicycle trip kicked off on July 11 in San Jose, Calif., to raise money for the program. Riding through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia, riders have covered roughly 75 miles per day.
And Sunday, they will finish out the last leg of their trip, ending up on the steps of Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, just minutes from PRASADs headquarters in Hurleyville.
A former Sullivan County health commissioner, Campbell says tooth decay is a major problem.
Its a national epidemic, she said. We arent the only ones with cavities.
But in Sullivan County theres a great need for childrens health care, and that includes dental care.
PRASAD can provide a dental visit each year for children who are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program at their schools.
Since 1997, cavities have gone down from a maximum of 13 in one childs mouth to just a few.
And one of the keys is education, especially through projects during February (National Dental Health Month) and programs in the schools in grades kindergarten through six.
We really try to teach children, your teeth are for life, Campbell noted. The cure for cavities is a toothbrush and knowing how to use it.
But to keep these services coming, the program needs money.
Which was the idea for Tour De Smile, the bike relay which has included a toothbrush baton passed along each day over thousands of miles of roadway.
Area residents still have a chance to get involved, riding from spots in Barryville, White Lake or Hurleyville to the college.
The registration fee (which is, in essence, a donation to PRASAD) is $45 for adults and $15 for children.
Registration can be done at www.tourdesmile.com or by calling Campbell at 434-0376, extension 128.
Interested riders who havent had a chance to register can do so on-site.
To register in Barryville, arrive at the intersection of routes 55 and 97 at 9 a.m. To register in White Lake, folks should be at Busters BarBQ at 10 a.m.
To ride from the PRASAD headquarters to Loch Sheldrake (the shortest run at approximately 3 miles), register at 11:30 a.m.
All the money will go to a good cause, Campbell said.
You smile and the whole world looks at you differently I have seen remarkable, remarkable changes in peoples lives because of this program.