The Arizona Coyotes and Delta Dental of Arizona, in partnership with TeamSmile, worked with the Tempe Elementary School District on Sept. 16 to provide approximately 280 local children with complimentary oral health assessments and preventative dental care.
In addition to receiving oral care, Valley children from local schools – including Thew Elementary School, SLAM Arizona Elementary and Southwest Leadership Academy – had the opportunity to engage with Coyotes defenseman Dysin Mayo and Howler, the team’s mascot, and also participate in various games and activities that were set up.
“One of our pillars for the foundation is health and wellness,” said Nadia Rivera, the Coyotes’ Chief Impact Officer and Executive Director of Foundation & Community Impact. “This is very much in line with what we do on the foundation side, and who we are as an organization as supporting our communities that are underserved, underinsured, and diverse.”
Delta Dental of Arizona, which is celebrating its milestone 50th anniversary this year, has partnered with the Coyotes and TeamSmile since 2021 to help offer this program.
“It is one of the key outreach programs we invest and participate in to increase access to care, advance health equity, build resilient communities, and innovate for a healthier tomorrow,” said Michael Jones, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arizona. “Through critical partnerships with TeamSmile, as well as with organizations including ATSU Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, Pacific Dental Services Foundation Dentists for Special Needs, St. Vincent de Paul, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and Northern Arizona University College of Dental Hygiene, Delta Dental of Arizona’s foundation is proactively working to improve the oral health of underserved Arizonans every single day.”
It was far from an average trip to the dentist’s office.
The event took a process that can oftentimes be intimidating for kids and made it a fun-filled day with friends. Throughout the day the children were able to play games and participate in other activities that promote good oral hygiene, such as learning the proper way to brush their teeth.
Surrounded by their friends in such a positive environment, the process helped remove the stigma of dentist visits.
“It was really magical. Truly, we got so many kids through the dental process that normally wouldn’t get Services,” said Michele Grimaldi, the director of wraparound services for the Tempe Elementary School District. “There were some kids that really needed dental intervention that would not have gotten it if they didn’t have this event today.”
The team’s partnership with TeamSmile originated through the Arizona Coyotes Foundation a few years ago, and Rivera said it has evolved over the years into something even more special.
TeamSmile works with professional athletic organizations nationwide to connect oral health professionals with professional athletic organizations to “create an experience that develops bonds between children’s organizations, oral health professionals, surrounding communities, and the athletes that solidify the message that oral health care is vitally important to long-term health,” according to the nonprofit’s website.
The partnership between the Coyotes, Delta Dental and TeamSmile is one that has a true impact on many families, and morphs what could be an anxiety-filled experience into a memorable, fun day.
“They’re with their friends, so all of a sudden they’re not going to the doctor’s office and it’s not such an intimidating thing,” Rivera said. “Everything comes to a place that you’re familiar with, and all of your friends are doing it, so it eliminates that sense of fear and intimidation and it just becomes, ‘Oh, this is what we’re doing today.’”
The end result from the event has a true, lasting impact on families for years to come.
“I think we’re humbled, really, just that we were chosen, and that Tempe Elementary School District was chosen,” Grimaldi said. “The fact that so many outside supporters came in and provided the funding for this wonderful event to happen means a lot to me as wraparound services director, because it’s just one more service that we can offer families that are above and beyond the school setting.”