The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation announced this evening the donation of $1,200,000 awarded to local charitable and youth hockey organizations for the current grant cycle, surpassing last year's previous record-setting grant total of $1,050,000. Since its inception in 2000, the Foundation has invested more than $9.3 million in central Ohio to support youth health and wellness initiatives. A $230,000 grant to KidSMILES headlines this year's partnerships.
This year's signature grant makes possible the hiring of a part-time dentist to provide much needed dental care at KidSMILES Pediatric Dental Clinic located in northwest Columbus. The Blue Jackets/KidSMILES partnership began in 2010 with a collaboration to provide dental hygiene education in schools followed by a $50,000 grant from the Foundation to serve as seed money for the dental clinic, which opened its doors in 2012. The partnership also encompasses KidSMILES' volunteer-driven education outreach programs that have reached more than 36,000 elementary school and preschool children since 2011.
"At a cost of just $10 for basic or comprehensive services, KidSMILES offers a solution to the critical shortage of affordable dental options for low-income families in central Ohio and their mission aligns perfectly with our dedication to youth health and wellness," said Kathryn Dobbs, Columbus Blue Jackets Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director, Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation. "We're very happy to elevate our commitment so that KidSMILES has the ability to increase its patient base from approximately 300 each year to more than 1,000 annually."
Video: Blue Jackets Foundation celebrates record year
"Dental care is a critical and sometimes overlooked part of overall health, yet access to care is often out of reach for lower income families," said Julie Homon, KidSMILES Co-Founder. "With this transformative gift from the Blue Jackets, together we are solving the problem of poor dental health for thousands of vulnerable children in central Ohio."
During a pregame reception earlier this evening, the Blue Jackets Foundation also announced grants that were awarded to 28 other central Ohio nonprofit organizations. As a complement to last year's pledge to build eight new playgrounds in four years within the City of Columbus, the Foundation is supporting fitness through play in the City of Gahanna with a first-time grant to Gahanna's Parks and Recreation Department to build a Blue Jackets-themed playground that will be fully inclusive and accessible to its young visitors.
Another new initiative involves funding the Community Shelter Board's program to equip case workers with reading materials and incentives for kids who are in families at risk of losing their homes. Beyond the initial offering of books, Columbus-based Highlights™ is supporting the effort by donating 600 one-year subscriptions to its monthly children's magazine to keep kids engaged in reading.
As for other grant partnerships, recipients that support pediatric cancer programs include: Nationwide Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, Flying Horse Farms, A Kid Again, Make-A-Wish Ohio Kentucky and Indiana, Cancer Support Community of Central Ohio, Flashes of Hope and Chapel Hill House.
Grant partners that serve health and safety initiatives include: Gladden Community House, After-School All-Stars Ohio, The Childhood League Center and Gliding Stars of Findlay. Reading, literacy and education partners are the Columbus Metropolitan Library Foundation, Junior Achievement of Central Ohio, YMCA of Central Ohio and Community Shelter Board.
Furthering the commitment to grow youth and amateur hockey and remove barriers to playing the game, the Foundation has awarded grants to 11 local hockey associations and Simon Kenton Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
As the charitable arm of the National Hockey League club, the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation leverages its unique resources - players, coaches, staff and fans - to partner with and invest in central Ohio charities. For more information, visit www.BlueJackets.com/community.