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Wellesley dental group collecting thousands of pounds of candy for US troops

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  October 17, 2013 03:50 PM

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Drs. Ejaz and Femina Ali in front of last year's 5,260 pounds of candy collected for US soldiers.

For anyone who finds they collect more treats than tricks this Halloween, it might be time to knock on Dr. Femina Ali's door.

Ali, a dentist who runs the Wellesley Dental Group, has been collecting leftover Halloween candy for the past half-dozen years and sending them to US troops overseas. Last year, the dental office collected 5,260 pounds of candy, she said.

"Usually we have a mountain of candy -- but last year, we had a wall of candy," Ali said, noting that the sweets are stored in the dental office's finished basement.

This year, the dental office will collect candy Nov. 1 through Nov. 8, after which the Weymouth-based nonprofit CarePacks will tote the sweets off in a U-Haul and ship them to soldiers in care packages.

Ali said she originally set up the candy collection program 8 years ago to discourage tooth decay, at first even offering kids $1 per pound of candy.

"I had to bribe them to give me the candy," Ali said, laughing. "The first year I got 60 or 70 pounds of candy, so I spent about $60 or $70 but I felt good to get the candy off of the kids' hands."

But after the initiative grew exponentially in popularity, Ali decided to begin donating the candy to US troops overseas, after finding out that local food pantries would not accept the sweets.

"The troops need to know they are remembered back home," she said. "It's not just the candy that kids bring, but also the little notes and handmade cards and letters. It's so touching to read their notes saying 'Thank you, I want to share my Halloween candy with you.' You almost cry."

Each year, more and more organizations have donated candy, Ali said. It began with parent-teacher organizations in Wellesley looking to raise money, but soon expanded to schools in nearby communities like Newton and Needham, as well as various police departments, libraries, and local colleges.

Ali had to stop doling out cash for the sweets after PTOs one year raised over $1,000.

"I said, OK, I can't do this anymore, it's getting wild," she said.

This year, Ali is placating donors by offering a $500 prize to the Wellesley public school that collects the most candy for the initiative. And since the candy drive's weight double every year, Ali said she expects to see thousands of pounds again this year.

The dental office will also host a costume party Oct. 30 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., complete with food, games, prizes and toothbrushes, Ali said.

For more information, visit the Wellesley Dental Group's website.

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