The tooth fairies and the bad bugs

Dental hygiene students donned matching tooth fairy costumes to take the polar plunge in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and raise awareness of the Healthy Athletes Special Smiles program.

Fairies aren’t known for swimming in icy water, but when it is for a good cause, they can make an exception.  Dental hygienist and instructor at Fox Valley Technical College Sharon Crowe and seven of her students took part in a polar plunge in Oshkosh, Wisconsin February 19 to raise money for Special Olympics and raise awareness of Healthy Athletes Special Smiles.

Dressed in matching pink tooth fairy outfits, the students took the plunge, fighting both the frigid cold and the “bad bugs” – Sharon in costume, representing the oral decay and infection that 40% of Special Olympics athletes live with every day.

While the event was fun, the presence of Special Smiles representatives fulfilled a serious purpose as well. Sharon was able to talk to athletes and coaches at the event and tell them about Special Smiles.

“My sense was that people didn’t know about the health issues addressed by Special Olympics,” Sharon said. “I spoke with one coach, for example, who had no idea of Healthy Athletes, even though he had been coming to events for years.” But after Sharon explained to him the importance of Special Smiles and the other health areas, he said he would definitely come to Healthy Athletes next time and tell the other coaches about the program as well.

While this was the first year Sharon and her students participated in the polar plunge, she is no stranger to Healthy Athletes or treating people with intellectual disabilities. She has been a volunteer for 6 years at state and regional games and works for a community dental clinic that serves underserved dental patients in her community.     

So, given the chance to build awareness of Special Smiles and the dental needs of athletes with intellectual disabilities, will the tooth fairies make a repeat appearance at next year’s polar plunge? Yes, according to Sharon, but getting in the freezing water might be a different story.

“If the students want to jump, they can.  I’ll cheer them on from the sidelines,” Sharon said.

See more photos from the event…

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