“Leave no stone unturned,” is Walt Root’s motto. Root is retired and spends every weekday trying to secure dental and other health related resources for low-income and poverty level children. Once he gets a program started in one community, he is off working to bring that program to other areas. Diapers, eyeglasses and teeth are his focus. When Root learns of a need related to assisting children with health issues, that becomes his next project. “There are just so many children that need this kind of assistance,” Root is prone to say, and “We simply need to get them the services.” Root is constantly moving forward with new ideas to help children.
Poor children have five times the dental diseases of children not living in low-income families. With this knowledge, Root began “Good Neighbor Children’s Medical & Dental Charity” to provide free dental services for underserved students in the Salt Lake City School District who do not have access to dental care. Root arranges dental screening s in schools where 60 – 70 percent of the students are living in poverty. Many of these students are refugees and illegal immigrants.
When Root first started his dental program, he would drive students, in a van he donated, to their dental appointments. Since then, Root has worked with the school district to get an in-school clinic set up, complete with donated equipment and manned by local dentists who donate their time. The clinic always has more children needing dental services than they can accommodate – dental disease is the most common chronic health problem among children in Utah. 3,000 children receive a dental screening each year through Root’s efforts. Since he started the program in 1996 over 20,000 children have received dental care they otherwise would not have access to. Root also helps get eyeglasses for children in need, and has recently started a program giving diapers to low-income families.