The Crusader Newspaper Group

Gary-Area dentists open their doors for 7th Annual ‘Operation Troop Treats’

Children and families in the Gary area will have a chance to exchange Halloween candy for toys and send deployed U.S. troops, veterans and first responders a “sweet” reminder this holiday season that they are appreciated for their service during Operation Troop Treats, an annual candy exchange hosted by Kool Smiles in partnership with Operation Gratitude.

From Saturday, Oct. 27 through Saturday, Nov. 3, children and families are encouraged to visit the following Kool Smiles dental office to exchange their Halloween candy for toys:

  • Kool Smiles Gary – 1021 W. 5th Ave, Gary, IN 46402.  Phone: (219) 810-6396
  • Kool Smiles Highland – 8327 Indianapolis Blvd, Highland, IN 46322. Phone: (219) 923-3886

All area families are invited to participate and candy can be donated any time during regular office hours. All donated candy will be sent in care packages to U.S. service members stationed overseas and area veterans and first responders via Operation Gratitude.

“Operation Troop Treats promotes healthy dental habits during Halloween, and brings a little bit of holiday joy to U.S. service members deployed overseas and those who are with us here at home,” said Dr. Kayla Dawson, Area Dental Director for Kool Smiles. “Many of our patient families and employees are current or former service members, so this is a small way for us to share a smile with our troops and say thank you to those who sacrifice so much to ensure our safety and security.”

In addition to the candy shipment, Kool Smiles dentists will donate 200 dental care kits and the funds to cover the assembly and shipment of 200 Operation Gratitude care packages filled with letters of appreciation, food, entertainment and hygiene items, and other sweet reminders of home.

Operation Gratitude is a 501(c)(3), volunteer-based organization that annually produces more than 200,000 care packages for U.S. Service Members deployed in harm’s way, their children, Wounded Heroes, Veterans, New Recruits and First Responders.

“Operation Gratitude’s mission is to thank all who serve, bridging the divide between grateful Americans and the Heroes who serve and protect them,” said Kevin Schmiegel, Lieutenant Colonel, USMC (Ret.) and CEO, Operation Gratitude. “The Halloween Candy Give-Back Program provides every American child the opportunity to learn about service, sacrifice and generosity.”

The Gary-area Kool Smiles offices are participating from Saturday, Oct. 27, through Saturday, Nov.3, during regular office hours. Every child that comes in can receive one toy for every 25 pieces of unopened candy in its original packaging. The program is open to everyone, regardless of whether they are Kool Smiles patients. There is a limit of three toys per child and toys are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Americans spend an estimated $2.5 billion dollars on a whopping 600 million pounds of Halloween Candy each year.  In 2017, more than four tons of donated candy was sent to deployed U.S. troops through Operation Troop Treats.  Kool Smiles is encouraging area families to help exceed last year’s candy contribution.

Brushing twice daily and getting regular dental checkups is vital for people of all ages. However, Halloween is an especially important time for parents to pay close attention to their children’s dental health and sugar intake.

“Operation Troop Treats is a fun way to teach children about the importance of giving back, making others smile and in the process, learning about how to avoid cavities,” Dr.  Dawson explained. “Reducing the frequency of sugar intake can help combat tooth decay during the holiday season and Operation Troop Treats allows us to share the sweetness!”

For more information on the program, including the nearest Kool Smiles location, please visit

About Kool Smiles

Kool Smiles is dedicated to creating a world of happy, healthy smiles. As a leading dental health provider, Kool Smiles’ mission is to improve lives by providing high quality dental care in a fun, compassionate environment. Kool Smiles dentists are proud to offer care to kids and adults with almost any insurance plan, including State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), Medicaid and Tricare. Kool Smiles also provides oral health education programs through partnerships with community schools and organizations. For more information, please visit

About Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude is a 501(c)(3), volunteer-based organization that annually produces more than 300,000 care packages for U.S. Service Members deployed overseas, their children waiting at home, Wounded Heroes and their Caregivers, Veterans, New Recruits and First Responders.


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