Winter weather might have depressed the numbers, but not the spirit of dental charity volunteers.
Though a winter storm forced organizers to see fewer patients than hoped, the Kansas Mission of Mercy helped 1,182 patients for an estimated $803,590 of dental care Friday and Saturday.
"We measure success by how we help others, even in light of bad weather," Dr. Richard McFadden, a co-chairman of the local committee that brought the annual event to Dodge City. "I think the people who came here and worked it were extremely happy and the people we provided services for free were extremely happy."
The free dental clinic had to adjust for the safety of patients and volunteers, McFadden said, as many of the medical volunteers came from the eastern part of the state. Complicating the issue was that the storm hit Kansas earlier in the day that forecast a day earlier.
"The weather certainly had a big impact," said Greg Hill, the director of the charity. The group had hoped to treat 1,600 to 2,000 patients over the weekend.
"The hardest part is telling people that we've seen as many as we can see," McFadden said. On both days, doors had to close almost as soon as they opened, owing to the large number of people who showed up the night before and took refuge from the cold in the west side of the expo center.
Despite that, the temporary mass dental clinic treated 537 patients on the second day, many who lined up at 10 p.m. the night before. To accommodate that number despite being relatively short-staffed with limited time, medical staff members adjusted, switching from oral surgery to general dentistry, for example, and cleanup was moved up the schedule.
In better weather, the charity would have had all of Sunday to finish tearing down and packing equipment, Hill said. Instead, volunteers had most of the equipment packed by the late afternoon, Saturday.
Weather aside, the weekend was a success, Hill and McFadden.
The response on the expo center from volunteers was "overwhelmingly positive," McFadden said. "It's like it was built to host a KMOM." Organizers were confident the expo center could handle the event because it has handled large trade shows, specifically the 3i, without a hitch.
And "Dodge City did a fantastic job," Hill said as he commended the food, the entertainment and the local volunteers, including the total participation by local dentists.
"I'm just extremely proud of the people of Dodge," McFadden said.
Another notable discovery from the weekend, the general medical health of the patients was good, Hill said. The 1,922 tooth extractions were a "relatively small" number, he said, with cleaning and general checkups accounting for the majority of dental care rendered.
One possibility for that, he said, is that Dodge City municipal water has one of the highest naturally occurring levels of fluoride in the state. Diet could also be a significant factor.
The 13th Kansas Mission of Mercy is the result of about a year and a half of work from organizers and 13 years of trial and error, Hill said.
And a lot of sleepless nights, McFadden said.
"I can't say anything negative other than my feet hurt and I'm tired," McFadden said.
"At 10 a.m. I said, 'I've been at work for seven hours and I've loved every second of it,'" Hill said.