For 11 years, John Cherry has worked as a busboy/janitor at a diner where Ana Vazquez and her husband frequently stop to eat on their trips between Florida’s East Coast, where they live, and the West Coast where they have a vacation home.
Over the past three years when they would visit this family-owned Greek café, John would smile and greet them – but never speak. “It was obvious he was missing several teeth and seriously needed dental care,” says Ana.
“So a few months ago I decided to talk to the owner,” Ana explains. “I told her the kind of work I do and about the Smiles for Everyone Foundation. I asked her, ‘If I nominated John to receive free dental work, do you think he’d be interested in receiving help?’
“‘Oh, my, yes!’ the owner replied. ‘He would be so grateful!’ I also asked her how he would keep his appointments, since the Orlando-Waterford Lakes office is two hours from Fort Meade where Johnny lives,” says Ana. “She assured me that if he were approved for the program, she’d arrange his transportation.”
Changing the World, One Patient at a Time
“When I nominated Johnny for the Community Smile Project [CSP], I asked the Waterford Lakes team if they’d be willing to handle his treatment,” adds Ana. “Their response was an enthusiastic ‘Yes’. This group gets along great and Dr. Angel Rivera-Castro connects so well with his patients, I knew Johnny would have a good experience. I also knew that Dental Assistant Jacqueline Moore does a lot of volunteer work, so I asked her to be the office’s CSP Leader.”
“This team not only loves serving paying patients, but also those who cannot afford treatment,” says Jacqueline. “This is how we can make a positive impact in one person’s life, and in the community.
“John often reminded us that he’s 36 year old and this was his first time visiting the dentist, so we understood his nervousness. That’s why the most gratifying moments were when John overcame his fear of treatment, then his joy after his treatment!” notes Jacqueline.
Dr. Rivera-Castro eased John into treatment by fitting him with upper dentures first. When John returned for the lower dentures, he excitedly told the team, “My nieces and nephews didn’t recognize me when they saw me with my new teeth!”
“Besides being able to chew his food easier, receiving treatment has the potential to change Johnny’s life,” observes Ana. “Having a beautiful smile will give him more self-confidence. Instead of shying away from him, people will see him differently. He’s such a good, honest, hardworking person, we’re all happy we could help him.”