Volunteer Dental Outreach co-founder Dr. Bill Kerr said money the local non-profit is receiving from Tim Hortons’ smile cookie campaign will be immediately reinvested back into the Haliburton practice.

Paige Chapman and Mike Garland, the new owners of Timmies franchises in Haliburton and Minden, are donating all proceeds from the campaign, which ran April 29 to May 5, to VDO. It presents Kerr with a $10,322 war chest, which he said will be used to purchase two new dental x-ray machines.

“We were very honoured when Paige let us know we would be the recipient of this year’s proceeds. It is a wonderful initiative,” Kerr said. “Having money like this come through the door helps us to replace equipment and ensure we’re maintaining the high standard of care we want to maintain.”

VDO was launched in 2011 by Kerr and his late wife, Lisa. Located beside the CanoeFM studio on Mountain Street, the practice provides free dental care for low-income County-based residents.

Since opening, VDO has registered 11,727 appointments, helped 1,273 patients, and completed almost $4.4 million worth of free dentistry.

So far in 2024, Kerr said the practice has completed 1,084 procedures totalling just under $174,000. The operation is fronted by Kerr, his two children, Dr. J.J. Kerr and Dr. Loretta Kerr D’Ambrosio, and brother-in-law Dr. Mike Cusato.

Kerr said it’s a labour of love for the quartet. More than simply an emergency practice, VDO embraces a total patient care model where dentists identify issues, develop treatment plans, and then carry out the work. They do fillings, tooth restorations, extractions, root canals, and some cosmetic work.

“Some patients will have 15 appointments to get them caught up. It’s rarely a oneand-done type situation where we deal with what’s bothering them and push them out the door until there’s another fire to put out. We do a lot of preventative work,” Kerr said.

He doesn’t envisage a world where VDO won’t be needed in Haliburton County. While the federal government is offering free service through the Canadian Dental Care Plan to people struggling to pay for dental work, not everyone qualifies.

“There’s just so many people falling through the cracks. There are so many people coming through our doors because there’s nowhere affordable for them to get dental care done. It’s sometimes quite tragic to see how bad things have gotten for some – we can’t, and won’t, turn our back on them,” Kerr said.

The clinic is open for major procedures on Thursdays and Fridays. Kerr pays out of pocket to have a dental hygienist and denturist come in on Wednesdays to provide cleanings and consult with patients. Kerr also brings other dentists in twice a month to assist people who qualify for work through the Ontario government’s seniors dental care program.

Anyone seeking assistance can apply – Kerr said there’s a vetting process that usually takes a couple weeks.

Kerr said VDO is supported entirely through community donations. Its major fundraiser is the Lisa Kerr Memorial Golf Tournament, which takes place Aug. 22. Last year’s event brought in more than $70,000.

“We are very fortunate to live in such a remarkable place. Everything we do is possible because of fundraised money and donated time – it’s incredible what a community can do when a bunch of people get together and decide they’re going to help and try to do some good,” Kerr said.

As he reflects on 13 years of VDO, Kerr said it’s exceeded even his wildest expectations.

“It never occurred to me that we would be able to accomplish even a fraction of this. So many people have rallied around us to help make all of this happen. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said.

For more information, visit dental-outreach. com.