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Orthodontists’ candy buy-back benefits the troops

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Two Merrick orthodontists are giving the troops overseas a real treat this holiday season.

For the sixth straight year, Dr. David Gottesfeld and Dr. Richard Ciccone have organized a “candy buy-back” out of their Merrick Avenue office.

After Halloween, the doctors encourage children in the community to bring the candy they gathered while trick-or-treating to their orthodontic office. Gottesfeld and Ciccone buy the candy from the children, giving them $1 for every pound that is donated.

Once all the candy is accumulated, the doctors donate it to soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the 369th Sustainment Brigade, which is the New York Army National Guard.

In addition, they also tally the total amount of money they give away in exchange for the candy, and match that amount in a donation to organizations such as UNICEF, soup kitchens, or Bellmore and Merrick little leagues.

Gottesfeld, who lives in Bellmore, first conceived of the idea with Ciccone, a Merrick resident, in 2005 to promote National Orthodontic Health Month in October. He wanted to organize the candy buy-back as a way to promote good health. After reading about different projects that people across the county have done to support the troops, he decided to send the candy overseas.

“I decided just to do it as a charitable thing,” Gottesfeld said. “And I enjoy doing it for that reason.”

In the first year of the candy buy-back, Gottesfeld said the orthodontists accumulated about 150 pounds of candy. Ever since, the total amount of candy increased each year. This year, he said that they gathered “about five or six times that amount.” In fact, they accumulated so much, Gottesfeld said, that they could barely fit it in their storage room.

“We literally couldn’t even walk in the room,” he said. “This year was incredible.”

In the past, it was just patients or local residents who donated candy. This year, however, local organizations got into the act. The orthodontists received candy donations from the Old Mill Road Elementary School’s Girl Scout Troop No. 2539, Girl Scout Daisy Troop No. 2143, the Merrick Avenue Middle School student council and the Seaford Manor School District.

Shortly after Halloween, three soldiers came by their office to pick up the candy, and, according to Gottesfeld, the pile was so big that it filled the back of the soldiers’ Hummer.

The candy will be included in care packages to be shipped to soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Gottesfeld, it is customary that the soldiers who receive the candy distribute it to the small children in the streets and orphanages.

Comments about this story? DWeingrad@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 236.