CVHN helping children one smile at a time

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Each month The Destin Log explores one of the charity partners benefiting from the support of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a smile worth? In Walton and Okaloosa counties, the Children’s Volunteer Health Network has invested more than $4.5 million since 2005 to bring smiles to unprivileged youth.

Low-income children are twice as likely as their peers to develop cavities. For years, Florida ranked as one of the lowest of all states in providing dental care to its poorest residents. Studies show poor dental hygiene has been linked to increased emergency room visits, absence from school, and lower grades.

CVHN aims to change those statistics, offering free access to medical, dental and mental health care in Walton and Okaloosa counties. Established in 2005, CVHN began with one child.

“This little boy’s crooked smile caused him emotional pain and the other children made fun of him, calling him names like ‘monster mouth,’ causing him to be disruptive and a bully. He was suspended from school for fighting,” said CVHN’s founder Tricia Carlisle-Northcutt.

With a desire to help this boy, Tricia began conducting research. She believed there were more children like him who could not afford dental or medical care. Through prayer and research, CVHN was born.

CVHN has been a Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation partner since 2008. The organization has earned $899,000 since that time. This money have been used to fund the Mobile Dental Clinic, Dental Clinic Program and Health Care Referral Programs. The CVHN Dental Clinic and Just for Grins Mobile Dental Clinic each recently reached $2 million in free services provided to children in need in Walton and Okaloosa counties.

“What inspires us most about CVHN is that it started with one,” said DCWAF President John Russell. “Tricia saw a need and decided to do something herself to make a difference. We are honored to work with organizations like this, with the passion and drive to improve our community, to improve the lives of the children who live here, and to see local medical professionals come together and volunteer their time for this great cause.”

Today, CVHN has facilitated services valuing over $4.5 million with more than 61,000 procedures for over 7,000 children. Offering a Dental Clinic in Santa Rosa Beach has allowed the non-profit to serve 1,211 children since opening in 2012. The clinic is complemented by the Just For Grins Mobile Dental Clinic, which visits schools as well as other non-profits to educate children and provide dental care to those who would not be able to reach the Santa Rosa Beach clinic. Since 2008, more than 4,825 children have been helped through the Mobile Dental Clinic. In addition, more than 1,500 children have been given health care referrals since 2005.

“We hear the dilemma much too often that a parent must decide whether to pay rent or to pay for the expensive dental procedures recommended for their child. With DCWAF’s support, we are able to step in remove the financial burden, take the child’s pain away and return the beautiful smile to their faces,” said CVHN Executive Director Zach Billingsley “When you see a child leave the dental chair and get excited about coming back, you know you have something special going with your team.”

Learn more about Children’s Volunteer Health Network by visiting