Published April 13, 2017
UB dental students are putting their money where their feet are for this semester’s Run for Smiles 5k.
The sixth annual charity race organized by the students in the School of Dental Medicine, with some staff assistance, will begin at 10 a.m. April 22 at Harriman Hall on the South Campus. Promoting more than just cardiovascular health, Run for Smiles raises money to provide oral health care to underserved populations in Buffalo.
“This race was started to let the Buffalo community know that there are people here to help them,” says Cole Staines, a fourth-year DDS student and student organizer of the Run for Smiles. “Years later, we are still here, letting people know that if they seek help, they can turn to us.”
Proceeds from Run for Smiles are donated to dental school initiatives such as the CARES (Counseling, Advocacy, Referral, Education and Service) program and the BOCA (Buffalo Outreach Community Assistance) program, both of which provide access to affordable health care and dental education to those in Buffalo and beyond.
The CARES program, a collaboration between the UB schools of Dental Medicine and Social Work, strives to increase access to quality oral health care by addressing the diverse needs of Buffalo patients. CARES links patients with resources including Medicaid, health centers,
BOCA aims to promote dental education and implement free dental care in areas of the world that lack adequate access to care. BOCA members take part in dental outreach trips both abroad and in communities across the U.S. They also can be found at local health fairs and dental screening events, educating the community about the importance of dental health.
Staines says the Run for Smiles represents the change that future dentists wish to bring to the communities they serve, noting they are motivated to participate by “the rush” of knowing each step is helping someone receive the dental care they need.
“A lot of the dental students look forward to Run for Smiles every year because it allows us to interact with community members who we normally might not get the chance to,” he says.
Overall, UB’s Run for Smiles has raised more than $50,000 for community dental health awareness and care. This year, Staines hopes to add to that figure and continue its success.
But in order to do that, plenty of prep and planning has to take place. Staines acknowledges the amount of work that goes into coordinating the South Campus’ most popular race. He juggles the demands of being a dental student with the stress of making sure Run for Smiles goes off without a hitch.
“The biggest challenge to planning this event is finding time to organize it while balancing school work,” he says.
“Dental school is no walk in the park, and it can be hard finding time to meet with the coordinating parties to ensure everything is on track,” he says. “We find a way to do it, though. It takes a lot of communication, but if you have a solid group of students willing to help out and go the extra mile — pun intended — it will continue to be a success. ”
The race, which Staines has helped plan for the past three years, represents something else, too: a study break. Held right before spring semester final exams, dental students relish Run for Smiles as an opportunity to put their books aside for a while for some fresh air and fun.
And after the last sneaker has pounded across the finish line, the real party begins. Beer, music and food are plentiful. One of the highlights of this annual celebration is the chicken wing-eating contest organized by the dental fraternity Delta Sigma Delta.
“We have a lot of repeat runners who tell me they look forward to this event each year,” Staines says. “Although it can certainly be stressful at times, it’s worth it to see everyone enjoying their time at the after-party while raising money and awareness for the UB dental school.”
Registration is $20 and free shirts will be given to the first 500 who sign up. Register online by April 20 and in person April 21 and on race day April 22.