Marvin Hunt (left), MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale stands with Ben “Santa” Cohen, Wendy Gaudet, director of City Care Dental, and Loretta Hibbs, president and founder City Dream Centre, Sept. 21 after Cohen received free dental work to repair a missing tooth. (Photo Submitted)

‘Santa’ gets his smile back

Dental clinic provides free care for those in need

All Ben “Santa” Cohen wanted for Christmas was his one front tooth. Now his Christmas wish has come true.

“It’s a miracle,” Cohen said with a big smile after receiving free dental work Sept. 21. “I’m so thankful for all of City Care Dental’s help and I’m so happy to be a part of their mission.”

That mission is providing free dental care to those who can’t afford it. “We’re both in the same business, making dreams come true,” he added.

Cohen works as a flagger during the day, but in the lead up to Christmas he can be seen all over the Cloverdale-Surrey-Langley area playing Jolly Ol’ St. Nick.

Dr. Wendy Gaudet is the director of City Care Dental along with her husband Ron. She said she was overjoyed that City Care could help Santa.

“Christmas is right around the corner. So we helped give Santa his smile back.”

Gaudet said because Cohen was missing one of his front teeth, his work as Santa Claus was in jeopardy.

“He was turned down for work this year,” she said. “He is the perfect Santa—he is Santa—but he wasn’t able to smile.”

“I’m more confident now,” added Cohen. “I’m used to having my beard hide my face, so you could still see me smile, but it was always covered.”

Several years ago, Cohen was working on the set of Supergirl and everyone just started calling him Santa because of his long flowing white beard.

“We help people who need a hand up,” Gaudet said. “But we don’t just provide basic care. We go to the next level. We replace teeth, etc. We know that having a missing tooth can affect a person in many ways, such as getting a job.”

Gaudet said City Care Dental partners with City Dream Centre to host these free dental clinics. In turn, they need an army of volunteers and each clinic needs a sponsor. This particular clinic, held in the parking lot of Pacific Community Church, was sponsored by MLA Marvin Hunt and Cloverdale Community Kitchen.

“We run on grants. We look for various organizations to partner with, and we need a sponsor for each clinic.”

Gaudet said the City Care dentalmobile helped a student get her schooling and working life back on track last year.

“She was putting herself through school, but couldn’t find a job.”

After City Care and the Dream Centre team were able to repair her teeth and gift her with a brand new smile, the student landed a job as a barista.

“It changed her whole demeanor. It gave her her sense of dignity back and imbued her with hope.”

After feeling his future was a little uncertain, a sense of dignity has also returned to Cohen.

“Appearances can be very important,” he said. “I didn’t have proper teeth and I was worried about getting more work as Santa. I thought I’d have to hang up my boots and gloves.”

“It is amazing the difference that a little dental help can make in peoples lives,” said Hunt. “It immediately gives them confidence. They stand taller and smile bigger almost right away.”

Hunt got involved with the dental truck clinics when he was serving meals at the Cloverdale Community Kitchen. He noticed a person eating a different meal than everyone else. “My curiosity led me to ask why and discovered that they had dental problems. I knew about the dental truck and asked how we could connect it to the needs in Cloverdale.”

Courtenay van den Boogaard, Manager of Communications for Cloverdale Community Kitchen said they went through a database of people to identify those most in need and offer them the opportunity to get some dental work done. This event was the second dental clinic at Pacific Community Church.

City Care has provided more than 400 hours of free dental work to more than 200 adults and about 70 children over the last two-and-half years.

Cohen said he can now focus on the fall without any of the worry he felt before. He said he has Santa bookings all the way up until Christmas day. His first event of the season is a charity auction at Elements Casino in October.

After Remembrance Day, Cohen said he puts on his Santa hat while flagging. He says he’ll add pieces as the weeks progress: next a jacket, then a belt, and finally boots and pants—all under his reflective vest. He says motorists will often honk out hello’s and shout out Merry Christmases to him as they cruise past.

“People are very kind,” he said. “I’m so happy right now.”

Cohen can be booked through Out of the Rain Events, via info@outoftherainevents.com. More info on City Care Dental and City Dream Centre can be found at citydreamcentre.com.

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Volunteer Karalene Yeung works on Ben “Santa” Cohen. (Photo: Malin Jordan)

City Dream Centre’s dentalmobile. (Photo: Malin Jordan)

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