Orthodontists preach that kids should stay away from candy when they have braces on their teeth.
But when Halloween rolls around, that can become a difficult order for young people to obey.
At Dr. Joseph Cardarelli Jr.’s office however, they have a unique way to counter that dilemma.
Each year on Nov. 1, Cardarelli holds his Halloween Candy Buyback Party where he collects candy from his patients and donates it to troops serving overseas.
“We have great turnouts each year,” said Cardarelli, whose office is at the intersection of Summer and Mill streets. “This is something the kids really look forward to.”
For each pound of candy a child donates, Cardarelli gives a dollar to the youngster. He received 400 pounds of candy this year. In previous years, he’s collected as much as 600 pounds.
Cardarelli donates the candy to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization which sends care packages to soldiers overseas. Cardarelli said he is one of many orthodontists or dentists who participate in this program.
Although the kids give up their candy, they are happy to contribute to a good cause.
“I think my patients ask their friends to donate candy just so they can contribute more,” Cardarelli said. “They’ll come in here with heavy satchels over their backs filled with candy that they can barely carry up the stairs.”
In addition to donating the candy to Operation Gratitude, Cardarelli also matches the money he gave to the children and will donate the same amount to a local non-profit group. Last year, he donated the money to Emmaus House, which provides shelter and services for homeless people. He is still undecided about which organization he will donate to this year.
“(Donating money) is something I’ve done since I’ve been practicing,” he said. “It’s a top priority to me.”
To commemorate the donations, Cardarelli held a party where children donated their candy and drew Christmas cards, which will be delivered to the soldiers along with the candy. Mann Orchards in Methuen donated apples, which students could enjoy as a healthy option during the party.
The program is also a hit with parents.
Cardarelli said parents often bring in bags of candy just to give to Operation Gratitude without getting money back.
The program started nationwide in 2006 and the amount of candy donated has increased every year.
Last year, 60 tons of candy were collected across the United States and many more are expected this year.