R700 gift a reason to smile

READY FOR ACTION: Adopt-a-Smile has brought back smiles to the John Walton High School rugby team in Uitenhage with its custom-made gum guards. From top to bottom are Rowan Hendricks, 19, Luzane Strydom, 18, and Ruwayden Swarts, 17
Picture: EUGENE COETZEE

Kings captain on hand to see school team receive gum guards

The John Walton High School rugby team in Uitenhage were all smiles yesterday at the handover of 20 custom-made gum guards. Yesterday’s initiative is the brainchild of Adopt-a-Smile campaign founder and dental technician Ralph Meintjes, 45, who started the campaign in 2015 to achieve his vision of providing 40 sets of dentures for needy people in the Uitenhage region.

The campaign received a R50 000 boost from a Volkswagon sponsorship in December, which showed dividends yesterday as the rugby squad received personalised gum guards valued at about R700 each, imprinted with their jersey numbers and the campaign’s logo.

“I am hoping to expand the programme to include other schools in the area,” Meintjes said.

“I want to use these gum guards to illustrate to youngsters who face daily challenges of drug and alcohol abuse, poverty and more that they don’t need to fit the mould.

“Just as their gum guards were specially made for them, they too were made for a special purpose, which they can only achieve by focusing on their goals and aspirations and not getting pulled into the mould of the social ills surrounding them.”

Southern Kings captain Schalk Ferreira was also on hand to inspire the pupils.

“It helps us connect with our support base and is a humbling experience,” Ferreira said.

“We don’t always see ourselves as role models but I’m humbled to be here and give them the message to dream big and work hard.

“For us, if we can bring publicity to a good cause such as this, it is definitely something we are proud to be associated with.

“We hope it brings some sort of additional limelight and subsequent sponsorships.”

First team captain and matric pupil Lluwelin Plaatjies, 20, said: “The team are very excited to test these new gum guards.

“It means a lot to each of the players knowing that someone took the effort to make customised guards and really take an interest in us.”

Meintjes said he had been inspired to start his campaign after hearing about the plight of a Graaff-Reinet man, whose greatest desire was to eat steak on Christmas Day.

He contacted the man and offered him a new set of teeth.

The man’s gratitude encouraged Meintjes and wife, Crystal, to register a non-profit company, Smile Ministries International, with the Adopt-a-Smile campaign being its flagship project.

Since its inception, the campaign has provided free dentures for at least 20 people.

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