In honor of Freedom Day, dentist Jerry A. Sanchez and his staff will offer free services on Thursday, Sept. 12. Sanchez and his wife, Kim, are hoping the second Thursday in September will become a national day of giving back to vets.
"We're part of this dental organization -- this one dentist actually came up with the idea of really giving back, trying to make it even a national holiday," Kim Sanchez said.
Her husband and his dental team will donate their time to provide same-day services, including cleanings, exams, fillings, extractions and sealants. Meanwhile, Kim Sanchez has been working with local companies since May, hoping to drum up support and involvement.
"It's been a lot of work trying to approach businesses, because we're all volunteers, and then trying to spread the word to the military and veterans to take advantage of it. It's military, their families and veterans," she said. "The more I get involved and the stories I hear -- they do so much for us, and we're sitting here enjoying the freedoms while they're in the field in 130-degree temperatures and 60-pound packs."
Kim Sanchez said she'd gotten motivated while visiting her hairdresser, Samantha Eith, last spring, who was talking about her brother on active duty in Afghanistan. Eith's brother had last seen his son a year earlier, when the boy was just a year old, and her brother didn't think his son would recognize him.
"It struck me that I needed to do something," Sanchez said. "It just broke my heart."
The salon, Gary Patrick, also decided to get involved. Manager Lauren Andrade said she found out about the idea from Sanchez, and talked it over with Eith.
Andrade said free services at Gary Patrick are available to veterans and servicemen, along with family members of those on active duty, so long as they provide proof of their connection to someone in the military.
"My brother's also an active service member in the military, so I know some of the challenges the children of the servicemen face when they're away," Andrade said. "The children, the spouses, the immediate family and the siblings can all take advantage of it."
Freedom day was conceived by Dr. Robert Martino, a dentist with a large practice in West Virginia. Businesses in 35 states have donated their time or services for the first Freedom Day, including veterinarians, carpet cleaners and, of course, dentists.
A number of local firms have committed to get involved, but Sanchez said many have not signed on to say what they'll offer. The Wheelchair Foundation has offered to provide as many wheelchairs as are needed across the country.
"They said there wasn't a limit," she said.
But Sanchez acknowledges it will take time to build momentum for Freedom Day.
"I think next year, the second Thursday of September, it will have spidered and will be a nationwide cause," she said.
Sanchez said she'd also been reaching out to local veterans organizations.
"I've been in contact with them by email," she said, adding the day will be a success for her "if we can reach just one more vet or military person and they can take advantage of it."
She said she and her family are native of Pleasanton, which is an ideal place for the cause.
"If everybody did just a little bit to help out -- we have so much here," she said.
Businesses that are interested in getting involved can find out more by visiting the local website at www.freedomdayusa.org/pleasanton-ca.