Breckenridge mayor reaches out to Guatemala
special to the daily
Breckenridge Mayor John Warner is turning 60 this weekend, and in characteristic fashion, he’s asking friends to celebrate by giving gifts – to others. Carefully inscribed on the 275 birthday invitations sent out for his b-day bash is a request that, in lieu of presents, friends should consider stopping by his favorite Breckenridge cafe and donating to his latest volunteer endeavor.
Town mayor, co-founder of Summit Huts, volunteer Community Care Clinic dentist, long-term volunteer with the Summit County Rescue Group, former Breckenridge Music Festival Board member, an initiator of Summit Public Radio – Warner’s local community involvement reads like an A-list of Breckenridge’s revered cultural and civic creations. He’s also an enthusiastic participant of innumerable local races and Bump Buffets and annually, every Halloween, dons his iconic Tooth Fairy Tutu to morph into a genial distributor of free toothbrushes.
The local dentist’s generosity also extends far beyond Breckenridge’s borders. In 2006, Warner volunteered at a New Orleans East Side clinic after Hurricane Katrina; in 2007 and 2008 he traveled to Guatemala with the Father Dyer Church Group to provide dental care to indigenous highland villagers. In May of 2011, Warner will return to Guatemala once again with the Denver-based non-profit Global Dental Relief.
Warner expects to treat 15-20 people per day in Guatemala. Most patients’ needs are similar to those of his U.S. patients: preventive care with an emphasis on education. In Guatemala, Warner believes social divisions create steep barriers to universal access to dental care; the resultant gaps are places his volunteer work can fill in.
“I would really like to see more outreach from the urban centers into rural Guatemala,” Warner said. “But unfortunately Guatemala is torn by discrimination against the rural citizenry by urban citizenry.”
Though his work in Guatemala ostensibly helps villagers in need, Warner perceives his own benefit to be equally rewarding.
“The people I’ve met and treated are wonderful. They’re happy with a simple life and simple things. And they have a grace and serenity that is important for a North American like me to experience.”
Warner recalls befriending a young man named Benedicto who exhibited such serenity, and in many ways, is a mirror reflection of the generous dentist himself.
“He’s an artist, community activist, and volunteer for his Guatemala region,” Warner said. “He’s worldly because he has been to the U.S. and elsewhere to study English and develop his art, yet he always goes back to his village to assist his community. He always has a big beautiful smile – and a terrific attitude about his life and his circumstances.”
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