Dr  Bhatnagar

Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar

D.M.D., Bella Vista Dental

The staff at BellaVista Dental in Ahwatukee Foothills are always looking for ways to get involved in the community, but when a longtime patient was diagnosed with cancer she inspired the employees to help out in a whole new way.

“When Hannah came into the office she was incredible,” said Sandy Fussner, a dental hygienist at BellaVista Dental. “With all the treatment she was so positive and just kept a smile on her face.”

Hannah Benkel was 16 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. While getting treatment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital the biggest thing she noticed was a lack of quality tissues at the hospital.

Benkel decided, while still undergoing treatment, to start a drive for good tissues for the hospital to pass out to patients. She called her efforts Hankies For Hannah and when she told the staff at BellaVista about her plan they were excited to help out. They collected tissues and filled their own donation box within their office, but after the collection they wanted to do more.

Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar is a member of a national dental group, the Crown Council. They have created an annual fundraiser called Smiles for Life that partners with the owners of Zoom Whitening, Phillips Oral Healthcare.

Zoom donates its product to dentist’s office, the offices donate their time and their chair and charge customers whatever they want for a teeth whitening. Fifty percent of the proceeds go to Smiles for Life, which helps children nationally with dental care, and 50 percent go to a charity of the office’s choosing.

BellaVista chose to donate 50 percent of its proceeds to Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Benkel’s honor.

“We wanted to make it more personal,” Fussner said. “We thought how we could do that was to benefit someone like Hannah from our practice who had undergone all this treatment… We all got together and voted and we all participated.”

BellaVista gave the whitening for a discount and employees donated hours at the chair to the cause from March to June. In the end, the group raised close to $6,000, $2,950 went to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“When I think of ‘in the honor of so and so,’ I think of presidential speeches, or St. Jude commercials, or something,” Benkel said. “To think someone thinks that highly of me, gosh, it’s a good thing I got an A on that test. Everyone says, ‘You’re so strong,’ but sometimes when I didn’t want to be, other people made me strong, like BellaVista and my family. All the days when I really just couldn’t think anything but ‘Why me,’ to have someone show they care by donating a tissue box, that meant more to me than anything. Someone believed in me.”

Hankies for Hannah is still collecting tissues for the hospital. They’ve been able to donate several hundred boxes about every three months since their first donation in September of 2012. Benkel has been in remission for one year.

The Smiles for Life Fundraiser was an eye-opener for the staff of BellaVista. After seeing the need at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the entire staff is excited to do it again next year.

“I would hope we would all do that for each other’s children,” said Bhatnagar. “Why go through all this education if you can’t truly help people? For the whole team to help it just felt good.”

For more information on BellaVista Dental, visit bellavistadentalcare.com or call (480) 598-5900.

For more information on Hankies for Hannah, visit their Facebook page or email Benkel at hbenkel@gmail.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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