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Cash For Halloween Candy? Dentists' Buy Back Program Is Booming

Dr. Curtis Chan, a dentist in Del Mar, Calif., loads up a truck with 5,456 pounds of candy to deliver to Operation Gratitude during the Halloween Candy Buy Back on Nov. 8, 2013. Dr. Chan personally collected 3,542 pounds of candy from patients.
Courtesy of Dr. Curtis Chan
Dr. Curtis Chan, a dentist in Del Mar, Calif., loads up a truck with 5,456 pounds of candy to deliver to Operation Gratitude during the Halloween Candy Buy Back on Nov. 8, 2013. Dr. Chan personally collected 3,542 pounds of candy from patients.

Troops in Afghanistan pass out candy that was collected by dentists in the buy back program and shipped by Operation Gratitude.
Courtesy of Operation Gratitude
Troops in Afghanistan pass out candy that was collected by dentists in the buy back program and shipped by Operation Gratitude.

If your little ghosts and goblins dump their candy on the living room floor tonight, go ahead: Let them at it. They can sort, then trade, and gorge on their favorites.

But if you're like many parents, by tomorrow morning you may want to get rid of some of this candy glut.

One possible solution? Check out the Halloween Candy Buy Back program, which was founded by dentist Chris Kammer in Wisconsin. Kammer's office offers $1 a pound to buy back candy collected by the young trick-or-treaters in his practice.

Think of it as cash for candy. And the idea is catching on.

This year, more than 2,500 dentists and orthodontists have signed up to participate. (There's a zip code locator, if you want to find a dentist near you.) By comparison, about 300 dentists participated in 2007, the first year the program expanded nationally.

And where does all this candy end up? It's shipped to U.S. troops overseas, as part of an Operation Gratitude care packages.

Kammer says he started the program when he realized that, for many kids, the treat-eating season dragged on for weeks.

No child needs to have a shopping bag full of candy, Kammer argues. "The thought of that makes me shudder."

When he started experimenting with the idea of the candy buy back years ago, his own children were not big fans. "They said, 'Dad, that's a terrible idea,' " he says.

But after the first year, his family realized that he was not the Halloween grinch. The buy back was a hit in his local community: Kids got to eat and keep some of their surplus, but families were happy to drop off their excess and share it with the troops.

"And I decided, wow, this could be the [dentistry profession's] national response to Halloween," Kammer says.

Operation Gratitude has shipped more than a million care packages, including items such as DVDs, games and personal grooming products to troops overseas. Adding Halloween candy is a nice addition, says the group's founder Carolyn Blashek.

"It's a great morale boost for the troops; it reminds them of home," Blashek says. "But more importantly, to me, this provides the opportunity for every American child to say thank you to the military."

And this year, there may be even more candy out there to buy back. U.S. candymakers are expecting sales to be up 1.8 percent over last year, with Americans spending an estimated total of $2.5 billion on Halloween treats.

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