What would you do if you lived in The Northland and your child needed dental or vision care but you couldn’t afford it? Unfortunately, that’s a question thousands of Northland residents face on a regular basis. But thanks to the efforts of a group called LevelUp Kids, it’s a question that can be answered for free in their child’s school. “LevelUp Kids was originally called Miles of Smiles, which was founded in 2002. The mission of Miles of Smiles was to provide free, comprehensive, school-based dental care for low-income children in Clay and Platte Country. In 2019, we expanded our services to also offer school-based vision care, and changed our name to reflect the new mission, which includes vision, dental, and other school-based health care services for low-income students,” Executive Director Christy May shared. Since its inception, the programs have treated more than 25,000 children for 85,000 dental chair visits. The dental program consists of two full-time dentists who provide treatment on-site, in schools, and at other social service organizations. Another full-time dentist works in the group’s fixed office location.
May just celebrated 20-years of running the two programs. I wondered why the focus was on The Northland? “The Irven and Nevada Linscomb Foundation was a foundation created in 1999 after Mrs. Linscomb passed away. The goal of the Linscomb Foundation was to provide services to needy children in Clay and Platte Counties. The Linscombs had a company in North Kansas City called the Frontier Bag Company. They were never able to have children of their own, and when they became older and their health was failing, they sold the company to the employees who all live and work in Clay and Platte County. They put the funds into the Linscomb Foundation to benefit needy children of the Northland,” May recounted. After serving needy children in The Northland for more than two decades, May says there are plans for expansion next year into St. Joseph and south of the river.
LevelUp Kids brings comprehensive dental and vision care to schools, making it easy for the parents to get their children the care they need. “The parent signs a consent form, and we provide services directly at the school. That way, parents don’t have to take time off work, find transportation, or pay for the services. Our programs eliminate so many barriers that low-income children have in accessing health care,” May told me. “We offer our services for free, on-site at schools, and we have follow-up care in our fixed office on Antioch Road. We are the dental and vision home for the children who otherwise would not receive these services. We want to give underprivileged kids a “level up” to achieve the same success as their peers, in school and life.”
May says LevelUp Kids is important to her personally and professionally. “Many times, children are suffering because of the choices their parents made, and they don’t know the importance of good oral health and vision care. Because we can take care of children in the school setting where they feel safe and secure, we are able to get so many children the health care services they would go without if it wasn’t for LevelUp Kids,” May stated.
If you’re reading this and are wondering if you can get assistance or you care to get involved, May encourages you to visit their website at levelupkids.com!