Willy Carreras of Riverview is not a dentist, but he is known to many in the community as “Dr. Smiles” because of the wonderful work he does to help special needs children receive dental care. Carreras is the local liaison for the Grottoes of North America Humanitarian Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that brings children with special needs help by providing them much-needed dental care. The program helps cover the costs of dental treatment, including hospital and anesthesia costs, when needed, for children with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular disorders, those with mental retardation and organ transplant recipients. “I was selected to work as the link between parents and the Humanitarian Foundation with the title of ‘Dr. Smiles’ through my local Zendah Grotto,” Carreras said.
The way the program works is that parents in the Brandon community with special needs children contact Carreras and he sends them the paperwork from the organization. They fill the paperwork out and send it back to him and he approves or disapproves the paperwork. He then arranges for the child to meet with the two pediatric dentists in the area who specialize in children with special needs. A child is scheduled for no more than two treatments a year unless there is an emergency. “We treat all children up to the age of 18, no exceptions of nationality, origin, and race,” Carreras said.
Carreras loves what he does, but he does admit that many people in the community do not know about the program. He’s reached out to various schools and community organizations to let them know there is dental help available for special needs children. “I have contacted several high school nurses, social workers and principals to offer the services of the program, but the answers have not been what I expected,” Carreras said. “It is heartwarming to help those children to get rid of the pain and see them smiling again and that’s why my title is Dr. Smiles.”
Carreras hopes he can help the program reach all of the children in need of dental care and help alleviate their pain from dental problems. If you would like to learn more about the Grottoes of North America Humanitarian Foundation, you can visit them on the web at www.hfgrotto.org or call 671-3300.