Union County children received basic dental work thanks to the annual Give Kids a Smile event Friday.

Sheena Underhill, La Grande, took her two daughters, Trystin and Miah, 11 and 9 respectively, to the event on Friday. She said her cousin, Jade, works at Eli Mayes Dental office, where the event was held.

Mayes hosted the La Grande event, a first for him, because the hygiene school that had previously been located at the MODA building, shut down in 2017. In order to continue having the event, Mayes opted to open up his office for Friday’s event to ensure all the children in the county who need dental work could have access to it.

Give Kids a Smile is part of the Eastern Oregon Dental Society, with dentists all over Eastern Oregon offering a day of free dental work for area children.

“The goal is to see as many kids as we can,” Mayes said.

Underhill said her two daughters were getting check ups for cavities. She’s participated in the event previously and said it’s a great opportunity for those who don’t have dental insurance.

“I appreciate this event a lot,” she said. “It’s great for those with income restrictions. (Dental work) is necessary but the affordability of it is a challenge.”

Underhill said this is an excellent offering for the community.

Mayes said the local dentists contact the elementary schools and ask them to get the word out for the event. He said they also get suggestions from the teachers who have heard their students’ mouths hurt or have seen visible decay in their teeth.

That was the priority for the event.

“We want to see the low income families,” Mayes said. “That was our goal. We were able to get in all the urgent and visible decay children today.”

He said they were able to do some screenings and the day was flowing fairly well without being overwhelming.

Previously, he said, the event would bring in 150 to 200 children who were seen by the local dentists. This year, he scheduled about 50 children at his La Grande branch, plus there was another 25 children being seen at the Elgin branch.

“I think that’ll change next year,” he said, hoping it’ll grow.

“We were restricted by the number of dentists available today,” he said.

While this day was around the same time as in years past, some dentists were not able to take the day off to participate in the event.

Doctors Patrick Nearing, James McMahan and Kali Gray also provided their expertise for the event.

The GKAS program, which was launched nationally by the American Dental Association in 2003, has also been hosted in Union County for more than 10 years.