There are countless ways to honor the memory of a passed love one.
Plaques. Scholarships. Headstones. Even golf outings.
But there are few ways more honorable than through public service.
Jason Silverman only walked this earth for six short years. But some 34 years later – almost six times more than he lived – Jason’s memory lives on.
It’s called ‘Jay Day’, short for Jason and inspired by the young Silverman’s fight with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It is simply the best way that local dentist Dr. Robert Silveman could think of to honor his fallen son.
This year’s Jay Day, the 34th annual celebration of Jason’s life, will unfold on Friday, August 2, from 8am to 4pm, at Cornwall Family Dentistry, 850 Norman Drive in Lebanon. Throughout the day, walk-in patients may select one of the following dental services that be offered free of charge – exam and cleaning, filling, or emergency treatment.
All are welcome, on a first-come, first-serve basis. No questions asked.
“I thought about it, and I figured I’d do what I do best. I’m good at dentistry,” said Dr. Silverman, of the origin of the event. “It’s easy to give my services away. It’s easy to straighten a smile. You can change someone’s life completely by giving them a smile.
“I have to put myself in a work mode, because it brings up a lot of emotions,” continued Silverman. “If I didn’t, I’d be crying all day. It’s at the end of the day, when everything is done and I’m sitting alone, that’s when I’ll think about it. This way, his death wasn’t in vain.”
Silverman is about four years removed from selling his own dental practice in Annville. He now works part-time at Cornwall Family Dentistry.
Silverman said the idea of discontinuing Jay Day never crossed his mind, and that his new family at Cornwall Family Dentistry really embraced the concept of giving back.
“Jay Day has never missed a beat,” said Silverman of the transition. “When I left my own practice and went over to Cornwall, they asked me if I wanted to continue it. It’s found a new home. They’re doing it for the right reasons.
“We started Jay Day on my son’s birthday (September 5), the year after he died,” added Silverman, “because people helped me out when he was sick. It’s whatever we can perform in one day, and if we don’t get to them, we’ll schedule a time for them to come back. It’s a way of giving back.”
Last year on Jay Day, Dr. Silverman and the rest of the staff at Cornwall Family Dentistry treated over a hundred patients in need. Over the years, some 5,000 local residents have taken advantage of Silverman’s services.
“It’s been extremely successful,” said Silverman. “In Annville, we were seeing 180 people a day, which is a lot of people. They started lining up at 4:30 in the morning. For a lot of people, it’s the only time they get to the dentist. We’re reaching a part of the population who can’t afford dentistry.
“It’s really nice to hear that we’ve helped a lot of people over the years,” continued Silverman. “We’re approaching it like it’s a new year, a new group of people. It’s a good feeling, but there’s other people who can’t get there. These people don’t have anything at all. They’re living day-to-day. It’s sad that they’re left in pain. It can be hell if you have a toothache and have nowhere to go.”
In the early 1980s, Jason Silverman was very young when he was diagnosed with ALL. He spent a good portion of his life battling the affliction.
“He was at Hershey Med Center for a while, and it was in remission,” said Silverman. “But after the remission, it popped up again and we had to go for a bone marrow transplant in Iowa. His brother Ben was his donor. Jason did well with the transplant. But he ended up getting mumps and there was no way they could save him. He went downhill after that.
“At that time, the community was amazing,” Silverman continued. “I wasn’t even from the area. People just reached out, and they were going to help my son out. I was just taken aback. They were people who I didn’t even know. Before that, I wasn’t overly benevolent. I started spreading out because I thought it wasn’t enough. We still do Jay Day every year.”
At 72 years of age, Silverman is still going strong, and Jay Day right along with him. But even when he does lose the dexterity of his dental fingers, he hopes his son’s legacy will continue to live on.
“As long as my body holds up, I’m going to continue to do it,” said Silverman. “I like dentistry. And as long as there’s a place like Cornwall Family Dentistry, they’ll continue it. Hopefully after I’m long gone, my son will still be honored. If it goes 50 years or 75 years, that’s great. Someone’s got to be there to help people out.
“Jay Day is for everybody, not just for kids,” concluded Silverman. “If they hear about it, they’re eligible. We don’t restrict it to Lebanon County. If they can get here, we’re going to help them. There’s no charge. There’s no obligation. We get it done. They can save hundreds of dollars.”
Somewhere, Jason is smiling.