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PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland teen turned real-life 'tooth fairy' is working to make sure every kid can smile proudly, by rounding up basic dental supplies and information through her Girl Scouts service project.
It goes by the name Operation Tooth Fairy.
16-year-old Quinn McElroy-Fuchs, a junior at Lincoln High School, said Sunday the idea came to her when she job shadowed an elementary school teacher and saw young children with decayed teeth and mouths full of fillings.
“It's like kind of jarring,” she said. “I was like ‘Whoa.’ ”
Quinn is a Girl Scouts ambassador, the highest level, and, at the time, she was looking for a goal to set in pursuit of her ‘Gold Award’.
She’d always considered the possibility of a career in dentistry and realized what a big impact that field could make in the lives of young children.
“I did more research and it was actually the most prevalent and preventable childhood ailment, and I was very confused. I was like 'If it's so preventable, why is it like so abundant everywhere?' ” she said. “When they grow up, because you know you go to an interview and it's all about first impression, and if all your teeth are kind of decayed, people could see you as like lazy or not taking care of yourself, even though it happened when you were like really really young.”
A few months ago, she applied for and won a grant through Disney Summer of Service, from Youth Services America.
With her winnings, she purchased enough supplies to fill 400 brown paper bags with dental kits, including tooth brushes, toothpaste, floss and informational sheets detailing age-appropriate dental care.
Saturday, she rounded up a few dozen fellow Girl Scouts to help her assemble the bags, which she plans to hand out to clinics and schools this spring, to be passed along to low-income families.
“Just getting the information out there at least at a bare minimum is a big part of it so that other people can be like 'Oh, it’s not that hard' and maybe even do like a drive in their community,” she said.
Quinn will be taking donations through March 1.
You can bring dental supplies or money to the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington office at 9620 SW Barbur Blvd in Portland.
If you’d like to write a check, mark “Operation Tooth Fairy” in the memo.