The statistics can be hard to swallow.

More than 20 percent of kids throughout the U.S. live at or below the poverty line ($24k/per year for a family of four). That’s more than 15 million American children. But zoom in on just Indianapolis and the picture gets even gloomier. Recent statistics by the POLIS Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis show that 22 percent of Circle City residents live in poverty, with a child poverty rate of 33 percent. In fact, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that child poverty grew in Indianapolis by more than 40 percent since 2005—the fifth largest increase in the United States.

The doctors at Gorman & Bunch Orthodontics wanted to do something tangible to help kids and families across Central Indiana who can’t help themselves. Specifically, we wanted to offer our orthodontic services to make their lives better and boost their confidence by giving them the ability to smile.

This month, our practice launched the Central Indiana chapter of Smile for a Lifetime, which allows children in Indianapolis and the surrounding communities to submit their application for free orthodontic care—including full coverage of all digital scans, x-rays, appliances and all necessary treatments to straighten teeth and optimize oral health.

Dr. Jason Bunch and Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht recently joined Dr. Randy Shoup on The Dr. Shoup Radio Show, which airs every Saturday 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Eastern on Freedom 95 (950 AM and 95.9 FM), to talk about the program.

Scroll down to read the interview in its entirety. Then, be sure to review the qualifications and apply!

Get to Know our First Smile for a Lifetime Recipient

Meet Samantha

Dr. Randy Shoup: On the phone with me, I have Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht, and I have Dr. Jason Bunch. Hello there. How are you?

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: Hi there. Great, how are you?

Dr. Jason Bunch: Doing well.

Dr. Randy Shoup: Oh, this is great. I am so excited. These two fine orthodontists are part of the Gorman & Bunch Orthodontics group. They have over five locations around Central Indiana, and they have created the Central Indiana chapter of Smile for a Lifetime.

Ideal Candidates for Free Orthodontics Through Smile for a Lifetime

Dr. Randy Shoup: Right now, I want you to tell my listeners this amazing program that you have brought to Central Indiana, where literally people can get free orthodontics. Dr. Carly, let me start with you first. Tell me about the process of how somebody goes about getting free braces from you.

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: The idea behind the program is that we wanted to be able to reach under-served young people across Central Indiana. Anyone who may not otherwise have the opportunity to receive orthodontic care, but has a strong desire to receive it—and is willing to go through the steps to get through the process—can start by going to our website. If you scroll down on our homepage, we have a big banner for Smile for a Lifetime. That will take you through the step-by-step for getting through the process.

It starts with an application, which has several components. There’s a written section where we ask you some questions about your background, why you’re seeking treatment, and how you think this would change your life. Also, there’s some questions about family, how many people are in the home, what’s the income. Financial need does have a very strong component in the selection process.

We also ask to see photos of your teeth and of your smile because we want our committee to be able to evaluate who has a very strong aesthetic need for treatment. Then we also ask for a report card because we want to see that there’s good effort in school, and we want to know that you’re active in your community, participate in extracurriculars, and are a leader where you are.

Once you’ve filled out the application, then it goes to our committee, which is made up of pediatric dentists, and we have an attorney—we have community members throughout different walks of life, a school administrator, general dentist, oral surgeon and then also someone who is involved in sportscasting and media. They actually select our recipients completely independently of any of our doctors.

Dr. Randy Shoup: You’re listening to “The Dr. Randy Shoup Show.” I am your host, Dr. Randy Shoup, and that is Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht. She is part of the Smiles for a Lifetime program that has been brought here to Central Indiana by the Gorman & Bunch Orthodontics group. This is absolutely amazing!

I know this program is nationwide, but you were the first ones to bring it here to the Indianapolis area. It sounds like to me—given the application process—you’re focusing primarily on school-aged kids.

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: That is true. We’re gearing it toward a young person. That being said, we don’t want to restrict ourselves. Anyone who’s up to 18-19 years old—if you express a strong interest and you’re willing to go through the steps—we will absolutely consider your application.

Making Hoosier’s Lives Better One Smile at a Time

Dr. Randy Shoup: Dr. Jason, let me ask you this. This is going to make a large impact in the community. People are going to have opportunities by virtue of this program that they would never have had otherwise. Give me the motivation. Give me the core values that have been established in your businesses that pushes you down this road.

Dr. Jason Bunch: As an orthodontist, our goal is to make people’s lives better and to give people the ability to smile or have confidence that maybe they wouldn’t have. It all started six months ago. I was talking with some colleagues that were involved with Smile for a Lifetime in other parts of the United States. I was intrigued. I felt like it aligned well with our vision of the company and being able to make communities better.

Dr. Carly was at a meeting in San Diego about the same time where they talked about Smile for a Lifetime. She came back and was really excited about it. Dr. Gorman happened to be in a meeting at the same time, and the same subject came up. We knew it was making a change nationwide and in a lot of kids’ lives. When we all came together—and felt like we had all received this information at the same time—it aligned perfectly with the core values of our company. And we knew it was something that we had to move forward with.

Dr. Randy Shoup: I was going to say, it truly is a convergence of great opportunities. Here you are at three different meetings—at three different areas of the country—and they’re all talking about the same thing. And you all bring them home and go, “Hey, I heard the greatest thing,” and the next person goes, “Wait a minute, I heard that too.”

Dr. Jason Bunch: That’s right.

Dr. Randy Shoup: That had to have been a pretty good meeting.

Dr. Jason Bunch: Absolutely.

How One Gets Selected for Free Orthodontic Care

Dr. Randy Shoup: As we talked about it in terms of how many people are going to be eligible and what is your vision for how many kiddos that you can run through the program, I know that you told me that you anticipate at this stage of the game three selection times in the year. From that, how many people will be selected?

Dr. Jason Bunch: Currently, our goal is to receive applicants, review them at our first board meeting, and choose two applicants. I really am excited about it. Our committee’s excited about it. And everyone in the community—all the service programs we’ve talked to—are excited about it. I feel like we’re going to have a strong application process. If we do, we’re definitely interested in continuing to raise the number.

At current, it’s going to be six patients a year, and we have no problem with bumping that number to 12—even 24—as we move forward. If we can change lives, and we can, in turn, have these kids that are being treated give something back to our community, it’s a win, win, win. We are really excited about being able to offer more treatment as we move along.

Dr. Randy Shoup: Just so that my listeners are well aware, if you don’t need orthodontic care yourself but you have nieces and nephews, you have grandchildren, you’re a teacher and you have kids in your classroom that are really, really struggling because appearance-wise they may get teased and peer pressure is just awful …. anybody that you know, any school-aged kiddos that you know from the time they start school up until about 18 or 19 years of age … we want you to direct them to this program because this is an absolutely unprecedented opportunity for a kiddo to get absolutely the best quality care possible and literally change their lives. The orthodontic care, in the hands of these wonderful dentists — Dr. Carly and Dr. Jason — can absolutely change the trajectory of this child’s life and give them an entirely new way of looking at the world or the world looking at them.

The community-service aspect of this is really intriguing to me because it lets kids have a sense of investment in it. It lets them have some, for lack of a better term, skin in the game. That’s terrific!

You’re making your first selection, so is your application process open now?

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: Yes, it is open now. We will be making our first selections and awarding our first scholarships in April. After that, our next selection cycle will end in August, and then we will do our third in December. As we get started, we’re doing a little bit longer of a cycle in hopes of getting the word out and getting as many applications as possible.

Providing Orthodontic Services to Kids Across Central Indiana

Dr. Randy Shoup: Since you have five locations around Central Indiana, I’m assuming that the scholarship recipients—that’s what we’ll call them—would simply find their way to the closest of your offices and have their treatment down there. Or is there a central location that they have to go to?

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: As of right now, we are operating out of our three Central Indiana offices, which include Carmel, Westfield and Kokomo. Anyone who is within reasonable driving distance—about an hour—of those offices can absolutely be part of this program as it currently exists.

Dr. Randy Shoup: If they’re willing to…

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: We’re really excited about…

Dr. Randy Shoup: If they’re willing to drive two hours, does that exclude them?

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: The issue with the two-hour drive is that the importance of keeping appointments is paramount to successful treatment.

Dr. Randy Shoup: For sure.

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: Once you start looking at prolonged driving distances, just statistically it’s going to be a lot more difficult for somebody to be able to make and keep appointments in a timely manner, which then would compromise their overall outcome.

Dr. Randy Shoup: Absolutely.

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: What we’re really excited about doing with Smile for a Lifetime is starting what we’re calling a Wabash Valley chapter, as soon as we sort of get our feet on the ground with this chapter. That would include then our Marion and Wabash offices and extend our reach even further.

Dr. Randy Shoup: Absolutely, great. You’re listening to “The Dr. Randy Shoup Show.” I am your host, Dr. Randy Shoup. We’re talking to Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht and Dr. Jason Bunch of the Gorman & Bunch Orthodontics group, and they’re talking about how they’ve launched the Central Indiana chapter of Smile for a Lifetime orthodontic care.

If you have a kiddo that would be in great need, receive huge benefits from orthodontic therapy, and it is simply just not within the financial realm of reality for them to get that done, this is a way. You can go to—the website you’re very used to going to—and we’re going to have a link over to the Gorman & Bunch Orthodontics website. As you scroll down that page, there’s going to be a big banner that is going to direct you to the application process.

Doctors, I thank you very, very much for being with me here today. It’s great being able to get this message out. I really would like for us to—when April rolls around—follow up and talk to your scholarship recipients to see how the selection has gone. And anything we can do to help promote this program for you. I am completely all in. Thank you very, very much.

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: Thank you.

Dr. Jason Bunch: Thank you. We really appreciate the ability to have you help us spread this word. That’s the biggest thing that you can do. It really means a lot to Gorman & Bunch Orthodontics that you took the time to interview us and help spread the word.

Dr. Randy Shoup: Again, it is great. It is a truly humanitarian effort on your part. It’s really important, and it’s really life changing for these kiddos. Please everybody, go to the website and link over to Gorman & Bunch Orthodontics. Fill in the application and you can change a kiddo’s life just that easily. I’ll talk to you all soon again. Thank you.

Dr. Jason Bunch: Great, thank you.

Dr. Randy Shoup: All right.

Dr. Carly Ahlbrecht: Thank you.

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