From coat drives to Freedom Day USA, this West Virginia practice cares for the community in numerous ways beyond traditional dentistry.
Robert Martino, DDS, CEO of Wilson Martino Dental, is always looking for ways to help others. From local events to corporate sponsors to national recognition, his enthusiasm and energy have grown his outreach many times over. The old adage “Practice what you preach,” just may be Dr Martino’s motto. His humanitarian efforts blend perfectly into every aspect of his work and family life.
You could say that Dr Martino’s practice, which is headquartered in Bridgeport, West Virginia, is going to the dogs. But that wouldn’t be totally true. Cats also reap the benefits of his practice’s philanthropy. His generosity is evident in the Humane Society of Harrison County’s newly renovated building, which has been dedicated as The Martino Home for Cats & Dogs (Figure 1).
Dr Martino and his family donated more than $100,000 toward paying the Humane Society’s mortgage, funding renovations, and saving countless animals’ lives.
During a previous fundraiser, patients were able to drop off money and pet supplies with the practice matching the monetary donations. To sweeten the pot, anyone who donated was entered into a drawing for a free Zoom whitening. In a recent interview, Dr Martino said, “Right now we’re in the middle of trying to save 100 dogs. We pay the adoption fee. We’ve saved about 93 dogs so far.” The 7 offices of Wilson Martino Dental hosted the annual “Wilson Martino Dental Adopt A Pet Month,” which saved more than 700 dogs and cats from being euthanized at animal shelters throughout West Virginia, he noted.
Dr Martino has 6 dogs, and he has owned as many as a dozen at a time. He says, “I’m a big dog lover. It’s really great that we’re doing this because I personally know what joy dogs give. Not only are we saving their lives, but we’re making all of the new owners happy.”
Dr Martino and his aeronautic business partner, Edward Waske Jr, also bring smiles to children’s faces in nondental ways. After investing in EASW, an international airplane maintenance company, he and Waske took their good deeds to new heights by sponsoring an air show for children. Each year, hundreds of kids flock to the hangar to see different types of flying machines in action. They take home model planes along with education and a newfound love for flying.
During the holiday season, Dr Martino and his team turn their attention to children who are not as fortunate. The Angel Tree shopping project has been funded by the office, team members, and dental associates for the past 15 years. Money is distributed so that every team member from all of Dr Martino’s businesses can fulfill the wishes found on a child’s paper angel from the Salvation Army, local churches, or schools during Christmas.
“We choose one day, usually around the first of December, and about 100 of us all go to Walmart together to shop for our ‘angels’,” says Wendy Boyce, Wilson Martino Dental’s vice president of customer relations. “Dr Martino and Dr Wilson started this long ago when we had just 1 office. And now we have 7 offices, plus the company headquarters, OraCare, a call center, and a specialty practice. So when everybody gets together to shop, we are quite a spectacle.”
The good tidings extend to adults as well. Eleven years ago, as a nod to West Virginia’s sizable veteran population, Dr Martino founded Freedom Day USA, an appreciation event for past and present members of the military and their families (Figure 2).
Boyce recalls, “It started out as a day of free services. Our motto is ‘a day of free for our lifetime of freedom.’ And it started growing as Dr Martino’s colleagues wanted to participate, too, and it spread all over the nation. At one point, we had participants in every state, with almost $1 million in services being donated on that day.”
The day has expanded in scope and flexibility. Any business, not just dentists, can donate products or services, and if they cannot participate on a certain day, they can hold their event at a more convenient time. There is no specified amount to donate, and it doesn’t have to involve a certain number of military members or even a whole day of services. To learn more or participate in Freedom Day, visit freedomdayusa.org.
“Whatever you can give is a ‘thank you’ that supports our mission, even if it is providing something to 1 military member of their family,” Boyce says.
Each summer, the offices host a West Virginia Healthy Kids Drive event, which so far has helped more than 4000 children. The day provides free dental care for children in the community 12 years and younger, providing cleanings, exams, x-rays, fluoride treatments, and any necessary dental treatment that can be completed that day, such as fillings, micros, extractions, crowns, and more.
The practice’s kindness warms hearts in other ways as well. More than 10,000 coats were donated to local shelters for those in need. After Halloween, the practice’s candy “buy back” drive resulted in more than 3000 pounds of candy shipped to troops. Office staff are out in the community for career days, health fairs, and school presentations.
“Some of our hygienists go into the community on their morning or day off or host an evening program for a local youth group or church,” Boyce says. “The program has expanded greatly because we’re all doing it together.”
Sometimes a new program arises by pure serendipity. When Dr Martino helped found OraCare, which makes a mouth rinse that’s replacing chlorhexidine in practices as well as in patients’ homes, he knew that it would be a better alternative for bleeding gums, bad breath, periodontal disease, and dry mouth. But he didn’t know it would become popular with cancer patients. He quickly realized that OraCare also increases oral comfort for patients undergoing cancer treatment by easing the fungal infections, dry mouth, burning mouth, and mouth sores associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
When testimonials started coming in from cancer patients, Dr Martino was moved to action. In November 2020 the OraCare Cares Program was launched. OraCare providers can fill out a form for a patient who has cancer, and OraCare will send a kit directly to that patient on behalf of their practice at no cost to the practice or the patient. The package arrives at the patient’s house along with a personalized note from the office. The program already has reached more than 2000 patients from all 50 US states.
With all of these fun and philanthropic events, it’s a wonder that the staff have time for dentistry. Dr Martino credits his team with helping him to accomplish all of his goals.
“I could not do any of this stuff without my team. I’ve been very blessed, and if you are blessed, it’s your responsibility to make life better for others,” he says. “We may not change people’s lives totally, but at least they know that there are people out there who care about them.”