Friday, April 23, 2010

Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles Reach California Kids

You might remember a certain preschooler who had the opportunity to visit the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House and make a kid-sized donation on McHappy Day last November.

Well, on that day -- when we got to chat with Billy Bush and Dayanara Torres -- I also learned a lot about other ways Ronald McDonald House Charities helps kids in need.

Last month, RMHC launched their "Open the Doors" campaign that recognizes and benefits their Care Mobiles, which provide health-care services to areas around the world where children need it most.

From cancer detection treatment in Poland to dental care in Contra Costa County, Calif., the Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles give children and their parents a cost-free option to just ignoring a problem that might only get worse.

Part of the campaign involves online visitors, who can vote for which Care Mobile should receive a $5,000 grant from RMHC.

A fortuitous turn came just last week, when NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne offered $50,000 to build another Care Mobile, each of which costs $500,000 to get up and running. He teamed with Fox Sports to kick start Drive to Care, which hopes to raise the remaining funds through donations.

I had the opportunity to chat with Chris Grazzini, who runs the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile in Northern California's Contra Costa County.

The program got its start in 2004, after the local hospital John Muir Health and others were concerned about the oral health of the kids in the county, particularly those who were under-served or uninsured.

"In this county, there are hardly any dentists who would take DentiCal or MediCal kids," Grazzini said. "Because the reimbursement is so low, they don't want to see them."

So the Care Mobile travels to both the east and west side of the county and visits kids four days per week.

They provide sealants and fluoride for preventative measures, and they also try to set the kids up with a dental home and insurance.

"Our goal is to see as many new kids as possible," Grazzini said. In 2009, they saw 676 individual kids and had 1,281 visits.

One of the organizations they also visit is a runaway youth shelter within the county.

"Last year, there was a youth, a 16-year-old runaway, who had not had any dental care for years," Grazzini explained. "But when he was being examined, he had a piece of metal -- how he got it, I don't know -- stuck behind his front teeth, up in his palate.

"It had been there for a year and a half, and he had been in pain for all that time, but he had no access to resources, so we were able to remove that," she said.

"That's just an example of the need," she continued. "And that we were just able to be there that day, and he showed up, and we were able to take care of him.

"And he was crying and grateful that someone cared about him," she said.

It's stories like that, which make me feel so blessed that CC is well cared for. But it's also great knowing that charitable organizations like RMHC are looking out for those in need.

For more information, visit Ronald McDonald House Charities at

Photo courtesy of Contra Costa Health Services

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