special education volunteer program

Local Dentist Gives Back to Support Kids with Disabilities

For immediate release:
Contact Caitlyn Malik, caitlyn@shadow-project.org (503) 987-0209
Photo by Boro Isailovski

Dr. Andrew Henderson opened his dental practice, The Smile Lounge (Tigard), this year with a dual mission: to promote dental health, and to support kids in our community.

While in dental school, Dr. Henderson decided that giving back to children would be part of his new practice. He and his wife have a 7-year-old child on the autism spectrum who has specific needs in school. So Dr. Henderson’s goal was to find a way to raise donations through his business for a nonprofit that supported kids with disabilities to succeed in school. 

As I was creating my business it was important to me to find a way to merge two of my passions: dentistry and working with children.

“Being the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, kids with disabilities hold a special place in my heart. I’ve seen the triumphs and struggles they go through, and I believe that we as a community can do more to support them. I knew I could have the greatest impact by partnering with an organization who is solely focused on this cause.”

His quest led him to The Shadow Project, a Portland-based nonprofit that works closely with special education teachers to foster success for students with learning challenges like dyslexia, ADHD, and autism. In April, which is Autism Acceptance Month, Dr. Henderson intends to make his first donations to The Shadow Project. 

Henderson is one of many dentists around the U.S. who are participating in Smiles for Life, a national charity campaign in which half the proceeds from teeth whitening treatments are donated to a nonprofit of the dentist’s choice. The campaign runs through June, and Dr. Henderson has selected The Shadow Project as his benefiting nonprofit.

Henderson learned about The Shadow Project in 2019, and was impressed by how the organization adapted its services during the pandemic. 

“I researched many local nonprofits, but The Shadow Project immediately stood out and resonated with me. I saw that they focused on a few key ways to support kids with disabilities, like improving reading skills, building confidence and motivation, and meeting sensory needs in school. They weren’t trying to do everything – they focused on those areas and did them well. I was impressed with their outcomes.”

Especially important to Henderson: The Shadow Project provided 180 local students with a “Sensory Tool Kit” to help them find calm and focus while learning from home this school year. 

I knew those kits were going to be helpful for so many families. My son, Chase, has specific sensory needs, and at first we had no idea how to satisfy those needs.

“[Chase] was sensitive to things like light, sound, and needed specific sensory input to help him control his emotions and be able to focus.”

Henderson decided to sweeten his teeth-whitening donations by pledging to donate the cost of a Sensory Tool Kit for every new patient he received. To Henderson, such kits are vital to classroom success for many kids.

“My wife and I received lots of support and advice on tools that could meet Chase’s needs, but not everyone has access to those resources or information. It was a process figuring out which tools worked best for my son. The kits that The Shadow Project distributed meet a variety of sensory needs and I’m sure it’s making a huge difference for the families who received them.”

Henderson was so impressed he joined The Shadow Project’s Community Advisory Board, where he collaborates with other parents and community members on how to best support students.

The Shadow Project’s founder, Christy Scattarella, said Henderson’s decision to support the nonprofit was another strong validation of the organization’s mission to achieve educational equity for all students.

“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Henderson for championing our children, so they can unleash their potential. When the community comes together, we can make school a place where ALL children can thrive and belong,” says Scattarella.

Through June 2021, you can support children with disabilities in our community by getting your teeth whitened at The Smile Lounge. Half of the proceeds from these appointments will be donated to The Shadow Project. Make an appointment at www.thesmileloungeoregon.com.

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