The smiling faces on the ETHS wrestling team should stay bright thanks to a gift from the Kiwanis Club of Evanston. 

A pilot program will insure that all members of the team have the opportunity to be protected with a custom-designed mouth guard  for competition.  Better yet each mouth guard will feature the ETHS school colors and mascot!

Dr. Stamata Blanas, an Evanston dentist and president-elect of the Kiwanis Club, came up with the idea when one of her patients, Mark Success Jr., captain of the ETHS varsity wrestling team, came in for a routine exam. Mouth guards were not required equipment, but they are generally understood to provide a measure of protection for athletes.

Through Frank Kaminski, Director of Safety for the high school and a past president of Kiwanis, Blanas was able to connect with wrestling Coach Rudy Salinas, who thought his players would benefit.  In the past no mouth guards were stipulated for the athletes but this year mouth guards have become mandatory for wrestlers who wear braces.  “We want to make sure that they have extra protection to prevent cuts and bleeding”, said Salinas.  Salinas added that parents have to give signed permission for their student to participate in the trial program.

Blanas took her idea to the Kiwanis Board which committed a total of $7,500 to the project.  Dr. Scott Hopf, another Kiwanis dentist, has also volunteered his services in the fitting of the customized mouth guards.  The two professionals began taking impressions for the wrestlers at the high school this week.

“We want to stress that this is a pilot program,” said Dr. Blanas. “We will be asking the athletes a series of questions before and after they have the experience of using the mouth guards to make a proper assessment as to their effectiveness. In the future we hope to expand the program, and we will be actively seeking other sources of revenue.”

Blanas continued, “We also hope that this gift will encourage students to become more involved in community service as they see how service groups, such as Kiwanis, can make a impact on other lives. And we invite the professionals in the Evanston dental community to join us in this project.”

In the meantime opponents may do a double take when they meet the Wildkits on the mat. In the world of competition, it might put a little more bite into the next meet.

For more information on the mouth guard program or to make a contribution to the Kiwanis Foundation for the mouth guard program, contact Dr. Blanas at 847-475-4544 or Dr. Hopf at 847-475-4270.

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