The first annual Freedom Day USA will offer a grand national "thank you" to veterans, active members of the military and their immediate families on Sept. 12.
Flowing from the heart of founder Dr. Robert Martino, a West Virginia dentist, and carried across the country on the swift current of an elite group of dentists in "The Platinum Circle," gratitude arrives in free services, goods and products.
In California, 28 cities are lined up to dispense dental care, carpet cleaning, oil changes, wheelchairs, massages, pet vaccinations and more. The emphasis is on "free."
In return for the freedom purchased on the nation's behalf by members of the military, all strings-attached or buy-one-get-one-free offers are highly discouraged. In Contra Costa County, Dr. Julita Patil has her Concord office prepped for the big day.
"We're doing exams, X-rays, teeth cleaning and referrals to Dr. Susan Cue at Contra Costa Endodontics for root canals and to oral surgeon Dr. Ali Alijanian in Walnut Creek for extractions," says Patil.
She expects to treat 18 people registered with appointments, completely packing the day's schedule.
"We're trying to recruit another hygienist for walk-ins," she adds, sounding mildly anxious, but determined.
The staff members in her office are donating their time, and three volunteers with dental backgrounds will assist. Although no one in her family is in the military, Patil says Freedom Day is "a neat way to give back to a special community with a skill I can offer."
Patil's dental assistant Angela Higgins-Vroom has three brothers now retired from the military.
"My family have their own dental care and won't be taking up the offers, but it's nice for vets to be thanked for what they've done," she says.
Fueled by the desire to show thankfulness -- and a competitive streak she laughingly admits "is my nature" -- Higgins-Vroom has been keeping one eye on West Virginia while planning the event.
"As a joke, we said we were going to see if we could get more business participation than West Virginia, which is where Freedom Day started," she says. "It was pretty fired up there, but I think we're in a dead heat and we're adding things every single day."
Indeed, local businesses are hopping on board: sandwiches will arrive from Bentelino's Deli; Starbucks is donating coffee and pastries; bagels and a large gift basket are promised by Noah's Bagels; and dental disposables for the day are all free, supplied by the office's Patterson Dental Supply representative.
Kim Sanchez is the city coordinator working in the Tri-Valley area under Dr. Gerald Bittner Jr., a San Jose dentist who is one of California's five Freedom Day state directors.
"Freedom Day is nationwide," she says. "It's backed by 60 Minutes, actor Chuck Norris, (retired four-star Gen. Charles G. Boyd of the U.S. Air Force). We're trying to get it to be the largest thank you movement ever."
Jane Behring, a volunteer with The Wheelchair Foundation, whose world headquarters is in Danville, is racing to catch up with the new event.
"We'd like to have chairs ready to distribute, but we need measurements, so this year, we're asking military personnel and veterans to call or email to make arrangements," she said.
For 2013, wheelchairs stored in Sacramento will be made available by Sept. 15, and Behring plans to organize registration in advance when next year's Freedom Day USA rolls around on the second Thursday in September.
"Our goal is to have anyone who needs a wheelchair receive one, regardless of their ability to pay," Behring says. Although many of the foundation's chairs go to Third World countries, she says offering them on Freedom Day will be a particular honor.
For information about Freedom Day USA, visit www.freedomdayusa.org.