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Free dental clinic for refugees opens to honor boy who died of brain cancer

By Heather Simonsen, KSL TV | Posted - Nov 20th, 2017 @ 9:01pm


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HOLLADAY — As twin brothers Jiyi Van Arumugarasa and Jiyi Thuran Arumugarasa showed their new friends how playing soccer is done, you'd never know an ocean once separated these friends.

The twins and their family fled to Thailand after violence overtook their homeland of Sri Lanka. Now they live in Holladay, near Nick and Jen LaFeber.

As a bond formed, Nick LaFeber, a dentist, noticed a need. The idea to serve the refugee community with free dental care came to him in the middle of the night.

"He woke up the next morning and said, 'I have something I need to do,'" Jen LaFeber recalled.

It was the day of a special friend's funeral: Hayes Tate, a 20-month-old triplet, who died of brain cancer. Nick LaFeber felt inspired to open a free clinic in his honor and held a screening.

"We had over 500 people that needed immediate help — so not just that hadn't seen a dentist, but that had an abscess or tooth that needed to be taken care of," Nick LaFeber said.

Nine months of planning and preparation followed and Hayes Hope Dental Clinic was born. Now refugees from all over the world get free dental in the clinic at 2160 E. 4500 South,

Hayes' dad, Steve Tate, got his first look at the clinic last week. "You realize the effect it had on people, and now a tangible clinic where people can come get help," Tate said.

The Hayes Hope Dental Clinic serves refugees of all ages, and children in need ages 6 to 18.

Navigating a new country and language is tough. Even dental hygiene is different. Rasa Arumugarasa, the twins' father, used rice powder to brush his teeth with his finger back home.

"I worry about my parents because they have a hard time paying for us, stuff that we want," said Jiyi Van Arumugarasa.

For the LaFebers, the clinic isn't just about fixing teeth; they envision a bright future for the Arumugarasa family.

"I see them being homeowners and having jobs," Jen LaFeber said. "They're getting the language down and they're working really hard. I know at one point, (Rasa Arumugarasa) had three jobs, and (his wife is) going to school."

And Hayes Tate's memory lives on in the smiles polished inside the clinic that bears his name.

"It's evident that he won't be forgotten, he'll never be forgotten. And that's a legacy," Steve Tate said.

The clinic is open on Thursdays and Fridays. They take appointments on a first-come-first-serve basis. For more information, visit HayesHopeClinic.org.

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Heather Simonsen

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