South Charlotte dentist, kids send treats to troops overseas

by Erica Oglesby

CHARLOTTE – Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq will soon do a bit of post-Halloween trick-or-treating, thanks to a Charlotte dentist and selfless kids.

Warrier Family Dentistry, 16143 Lancaster Hwy., held its second annual Halloween Candy Buyback event Monday, Nov. 1, paying kids $1 in exchange for each pound of their Halloween evening haul.

For Dr. Simita Warrier, the event acts in part as a tooth-saving crusade – she knows this is the peak sugar-eating/cavity-causing season – but it’s also a big help for Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to troops around the world.

Operation Gratitude received more than a half-ton of candy last year from Warrier, which went with other donations to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those troops in turn take the candy they aren’t saving for themselves and give it to kids in the war-torn countries.

“I wanted to give my candy to the troops because they didn’t get to go trick-or-treating,” 9-year-old Amelia Marsh said while donating her share of sweets.

“And so it doesn’t rot your teeth,” Amelia’s 7-year-old sister, Makayla, added.

Together, the two kids gave 3 pounds of their hard-earned candy, only keeping a few treats for themselves. It’s acts like theirs that amaze the Warrier Family Dentistry staff.

“It has just been overwhelming the support we have gotten,” said Lori Biscardi, Warrier Family Dentistry office manager. “Everybody loves the event.”

Brothers James and Joseph Jury, ages 6 and 3, respectively, gave up 2 pounds of candy while also writing thank you notes for troops which will accompany the sweets. James tried to explain to Joseph the importance of what they were doing.

“I donated my candy because I knew (the troops) didn’t have a lot of food,” James said.

And what does he hope they do with the candy gifts?

“Eat it!” he exclaimed.

Operation Gratitude
The nonprofit takes donations from across the United States, packs them and sends the care packages out to troops stationed across the globe, with special emphasis on troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and injured veterans at military hospitals such as Walter Reed. Packages often contain food, hygiene products, entertianment items and personal letters of appreciation.

Operation Gratitude is currently in the middle of its holiday drive, which ends Dec. 17. There is more information about how to start a local collection drive at the nonprofit’s website, Special items needed for troops include knit hats, scarves, gloves, white socks, computer flash drives, DVDs, CDs, video games, headsets and webcams, energy bars, beef jerky, sealed lip balm, toothpaste, toothbrushes and roll-on deodorant.