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Kids love Halloween candy, but if parents find there’s just too many sugary sweets to keep they can give some away via a buy-back candy project sponsored by a local dental group and hosted at area schools.

The project, “Halloween Candy Buy Back” will pay out $1 per pound of candy donated from Nov. 3 to 7 at many area schools including those in Richmond, Memphis, Armada, Marysville, Fair Haven and Algonac. The money raised by donated candy will go to the schools that collect the treats and turn them over to Growing Smiles Pediatric Dentistry in Richmond, local sponsors of the program.

A majority of the candy collected will go to the group Michigan Military Moms who will package it up to ship to soldiers serving overseas this holiday season. Smaller donations will go the Romeo Lions Club and other local groups who prepare holiday baskets for families in need.

Theresa Teltow, of Richmond, is a dental hygienist and the marketing director at Growing Smiles; she said the candy swap program was started at her office three years ago, and today it has grown in both candy collected and participation.

“The first year we just kept it within our own dental office, telling patients about it and sending a letter to the schools and it went OK,” Teltow said, noting that individuals who donated were paid $1 per pound for the candy.

When the second year approached, Teltow decided to get the schools more involved and opened up the buy-back plan while agreeing to make the $1 per pound donation directly to the schools.

“I’m a mom and I could see that it was more convenient to just let the kids bring the candy to the schools and plus schools always need money and this was a way for them to collect some,” Teltow said.

Students were invited to bring in their unwanted wrapped candy donations during the days after Halloween, and the new approach proved quite successful.

“The kids can donate all of their candy, some or none, it’s up to them and their parents; and then each school sets up how they want to promote this and collect the candy,” Teltow said.

Some launched classroom competitions, announcing each day which grade had brought in the most candy to donate by weight while others simply provided a running tally of the school totals to encourage kids to reach into their sacks for more.

There are 20 schools involved in the collecting now including elementary and preschools from Memphis to Marysville, and the totals from last year’s candy haul are quite impressive.

In Richmond, Will Lee Elementary was the most successful with 140 pounds; Krause Elementary in Armada donated 165 pounds, and Millside Elementary School in Algonac gathered 157 pounds of candy.

“Kids get so much candy this time of year so this is what we call the perfect storm; the schools get the money and the kids have less sugar going into their mouths,” smiled Teltow.

The schools are responsible for weighing their own candy, and Teltow shows up with a check and a tote to carry the sweets away the week after Halloween.

“This all on the honor system and I don’t want to be a disruption to their day or anything, they can handle it however they would like,” Teltow said, “but I can tell you everybody loves it.”

The list of participating schools also extends to Richmond Middle School, where NHS adviser Kyle Bartels encourages her students to gather candy to donate for a good cause not to mention picking up some funding for their service projects.

“I really forgot that we get to keep the money it was more about the National Junior Honor Society kids sponsoring the event and of course they wanted to make it a competition,” smiled Bartels.

Students in fifth through eighth grades will bring in candy to donate during their homeroom hours, and the class with the most pounds will earn a prize; in this case it’s a party with cider and donuts.

The money earned by the project will go towards purchasing uniforms for students at a school in Africa where Richmond Middle School sixth-grade teacher Sherri Bercel goes to teach science and math every summer.

“Each uniform costs $45 so whatever money students raise from this will go towards that project; it’s like our students want to kind of adopt the students in Africa and it’s really nice,” Bartels said.

Realizing so many can be helped from a simple candy drive collection impresses Teltow, who sees a lesson in the project for people of all ages.

“This has grown every year and I think the kids really understand it and like the idea that a soldier serving our country is going to get some candy too,” Teltow said.

Growing Smiles Pediatric Dentistry is located at 36602 Heritage Drive. For more information call (586) 727-5500 or go to growingsmilespd.com.

By Barb Pert Templeton, Voice Reporter

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