Wilton dentist’s mission promotes smiles
Dr. Robert Arbuckle sees a lot of patients over the course of his dental practice at Wilton Dental Care on Old Ridgefield Road.
But for the past 20 years, he has also been seeing patients in remote corners of the world, such as Guatemala and Cambodia, as a member of Healing the Children Northeast, a nonprofit agency headed by Dr. Gregory J. Keiser, that provides medical care to children in emerging and developing countries.
This past October, Arbuckle went on his 12th mission trip with Healing the Children, bringing a team from his Wilton office. This trip was to the Peruvian Amazon to provide pro bono dental services for children in remote Amazonian villages.
The Wilton team joined other dentists, hygienists and oral surgeons, fixing teeth and doing extractions, as well as educating children on proper dental hygiene and care.
The group worked at a medical clinic in Esperanza, a small indigenous village on the Rio Tahuayo, a tributary of the Amazon River. The location is accessible only by boat, and involved several plane rides and a two-and-a-half hour boat ride for the volunteers to reach their destination.
The Kick for Nick Foundation, a local Wilton group, donated a number of soccer balls for this trip as it has done on past missions. When the balls are deflated, they are used as headrests for the children while the dentists treat them. At the end of the trip, the balls are inflated and given to the village or schools for children to enjoy.
Accompanying Arbuckle from Wilton to Peru was dental assistant Rebecca Trimarchi (10th mission), hygienist Melinda MacKenzie (second mission), hygienist Tongi Clumson-Eklu (first mission), and his wife, Marleney Arbuckle.
Trimarchi has been an assistant for Arbuckle for 13 years. Her first mission with Healing the Children was in 2007 and since then she has traveled on 10 missions — to Madagascar, Brazil, Belize, Morocco, Cape Verde and twice to Guatemala. This year was her third trip into the Peruvian jungle.
“Although I am an assistant, my major role on the team is supplies,” she said.
Trimarchi works all year to procure the donations and supplies needed to make the trips happen, through supply companies and private donations.
The money raised is used to buy equipment. She said it is a struggle every year with airlines that frequently mishandle and damage portable dental units.
“Being a girl from central Maine and growing up in a middle-class family, I never in a million years thought that I would have the opportunity to travel the world like this, let alone help people that are less fortunate. I am honored and humbled to be a part of this group providing better health around the world,” she said.
The trips have provided her the opportunity to view other cultures, and most importantly, she said, to help provide free care for people who generally do not have the access or means to pay for it.
Trimarchi is appreciative of the support by the Kick for Nick Foundation for these trips. To date, the foundation has donated more than 55,000 soccer balls in 53 countries.
“Bill (Madaras) at Kick for Nick has been helping us bring smiles by providing soccer balls for us to take with us on these trips,” she said.
Kick for Nick was founded in memory and honor of PFC Nicholas A. Madaras, son of Bill and Shalini Madaras, who was killed in 2006 by an IED while serving in Iraq. Nick was an avid soccer player, coach and referee during his youth. The late Ken Dartley, a member of American Legion Post 86, started a collection of soccer balls to ship to Iraq in Nick’s memory, and the Kick for Nick Foundation was born
Being the season for giving, donations to help support future missions by Arbuckle’s team may be made at HTCNE.org. Donations may be made to the Keiser Team (Wilton, CT). To donate for the purchase of new equipment, specify “Dental Units Keiser Team” on the donation memo.