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Christmas come early
by Garrett Valenzuela
Dec 08, 2012 | 2536 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- A child with the Pathfinders organization receives a gift Saturday morning from Santa at Champagne Family Dentistry in Sparks. The family is in its fifth year working with Pathfinders to bring food and gifts to at-risk children.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- A child with the Pathfinders organization receives a gift Saturday morning from Santa at Champagne Family Dentistry in Sparks. The family is in its fifth year working with Pathfinders to bring food and gifts to at-risk children.
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SPARKS -- The environment was contagious at Champagne Family Dentistry as dozens of children stood eagerly waiting in line for their turn to hop up on Santa’s lap. Many of the children were sitting on the floor of the waiting room, comparing their newly received toys with one another as the staff of the local business stood by, grinning from ear to ear.

Dr. Jason Champagne assessed the scene with ease as more than 50 children cycled through his family’s office as part of a joint initiative with the Pathfinders organization. Champagne said his staff’s appearance on a Saturday morning was not the least bit surprising.

“You can’t fake this. This is legitimate energy and selflessness,” he said. “We have such an energized team and great staff, who love to give themselves and their time. That’s what makes this easy.”

Champagne Family Dentistry treated the Pathfinders children to a hearty meal, a visit with Santa and bags of gifts for the fifth consecutive year. The children associated with Pathfinders come from at-risk situations, low-income families and harsh living conditions, according to Mirte Iubelt, chair of the board of directors for Pathfinders.

The children receive a gift based on their letter written to Champagne’s Santa and they receive dental hygiene products, gloves and hats for winter. Iubelt said the children of the Christian-based organization benefit greatly from a simple toothbrush.

“Many of the kids have no access to dental or other medical care,” she said. “For us to be able to come here on the weekend and be fed a nutritious meal and for the kids to be rewarded with a gift and a hygiene goody bag is incredible for us because it reinforces how important hygiene is.”

The Champagne family has made the event their holiday priority in recent years and Jason said the holiday season is the perfect time for them to give back to the community they have been a part of for so long.

“Obviously the holidays brings out that spirit in everybody and everyone is really kind of charged up for that, but the main reason we try to do these things throughout the year is because we are very well supported by the Sparks community,” he said. “The community supports our business and gives us an opportunity to do our craft. And the very least we can do is to help give back to that same community.”

Iubelt said the yearly visit to the Sparks dental office always raises the children’s spirits and allows them to anticipate a Christmas gift. She said establishing the tradition and the “value of giving and the value of being thankful” has helped to remind the children they are not alone.

“The kids are ecstatic to go anywhere and they do value having something given to them and we always have them do some sort of thank you card to the people or groups giving them gifts because it reinforces to the kids they do mean something,” Iubelt said. “A lot of times they don’t believe in themselves and it reinforces to them that other people in the community believe in them and want to help them succeed.”

The Pathfinders children have been busy this month traveling to several of the churches, who support the children with meals and gifts, because the organization does not currently have a central location. Though a building of its own is in the works, Iubelt said the group will meet at Libby Booth Elementary or the Evelyn Mount Community Center.

As for Champagne Family Dentistry, it is currently working closely with the Northern Nevada Food Bank as it will be a Sparks drop-off location during Friday’s collection. Jason said working with local charities during the holidays and throughout the year, with monetary donations and casual events, keeps the entire staff happy and invested to the community.

“Nothing would excite me more than the opportunity for this (Pathfinders event) to spark something even bigger,” he said. “It makes you feel wonderful. It makes coming in a doing what we do each day of the week even easier when you get to work side by side with people who really do care.”
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