It took Michael Matthews years to have the courage to speak about the physical, sexual and emotional abuse he suffered in the Alberta foster system.
His story struck a chord with one Airdrie dentist.
“We only got partway through the first story when my wife and I, I looked at her and said, ‘I want you to reach out to Nancy because this is something we’ve got to help with,” Dr. Thayne Blunston said.
In particular, it was what happened to Matthews’ teeth that caught Blunston’s attention.
Watch part 1 of Fostering Change below: Nancy Hixt reports on one man’s story of abuse in the Alberta foster care system
“From what I did see, there were some confidence issues and self-confidence issues because he’s not smiling; he’s not opening his mouth and showing his teeth,” Blunston said.
Years of abuse have had a traumatic impact on Matthews.
Former Calgary foster parent of the year Garry Prokopishin was convicted of sexually exploiting four teenage boys, including Matthews.
In another foster home as a child, Matthews said he was forced to hold laundry detergent in his mouth.
He believes that was the start of his dental issues.
“It’s really bad,” Matthews said. “It does a lot to my self-confidence because a lot of people look at your smile.”
Watch part 2 of Fostering Change below: Recognizing the signs of child abuse
Blunston asked Global News to bring Matthews for a free dental checkup.
Matthews was taken for x-rays and a full scan of his mouth.
And then something unexpected happened—something that will forever change Matthews’ life.
“As you know, we saw your story on Global,” Dr. Blunston told Matthews. “My wife Jennifer and I…we were inspired by it.”
“What we would like to do for you, is I’m going to restore your mouth to health, and I’m going to do it at no cost to you.”
Matthews was speechless.
“To see his reaction…he just can’t believe it; he just can’t believe someone would reach out and do this for him. I feel very grateful to be a part of it,” Jennifer Blunston said.
Watch part 3 of Fostering Change below: Shifting the focus from ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ‘What happened to you?’
Matthews will be spending countless hours in Blunston’s dentist chair over the next few months.
As he anticipates a bright new smile, Matthews said he’s overwhelmed to see the kindness complete strangers have shown him.
“It’s definitely a step forward, knowing there are people out there that care and are willing to help others in the world…not just harm them.”
Click here for Fostering Change Part 1
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3