By Mandy Stanage Shoptaw | Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography | Shot on location at Crystal Ridge Distillery

   There’s a saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” but a Hot Springs doctor has made it his mission to help patients put their best face forward. Dr. Daron Praetzel performs corrective surgeries for individuals with facial deformities, regardless of their ability to pay, through the Faces Foundation. The foundation operates under a unique “pay it forward” system where 300 volunteer hours at select local nonprofit organizations count towards a patient’s surgery. The hours can be accumulated by family and friends as well as the individual patient.

   Dr. Praetzel, a board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon, established the foundation in 2013 and through strategic fundraising has been able to waive surgical fees. The results are two-fold: boosting confidence and self-esteem of patients and building the capacity of nonprofit partners. This fall, the Faces Foundation will welcome guests to an evening of boot-scootin’ good times that benefits the Faces Foundation’s work.

   “Approximately seven percent of American children are born with pediatric deformities and congenital defects,” explains Ernie Hinz, who serves as President and Executive Director of the Faces Foundation. “Even more individuals are affected each year due to diseases, accidents and war or burn injuries. The Faces Foundation provides these services free of charge for low income families, children, youth, active military and veterans suffering with birth defects, facial scarring, facial abnormalities and those that have suffered from burn or war injuries.”

   “Even though Dr. Praetzel and Dr. Baldwin do not charge for their work, there are significant costs related to each surgery,” Ernie discloses. “Funds raised will allow us to perform these surgeries on current and future patients.”

   This year, the Faces Foundation plans to replace its traditional Oktoberfest event with an evening that promises to have guests kicking up their heels. “Gowns & Boots is already being talked about as an exceptionally creative event,” Ernie says. Highlights include “bucket list opportunity” live auction items, according to Ernie, such as tickets to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, a fishing trip with pro angler Jimmy Houston and floor seating tickets at Madison Square Garden for a Billy Joel concert.

   Ladies are encouraged to wear gowns that show off their boots and gentlemen are expected to wear boots with a tux or jacket and jeans. Hot Springs tastiest eateries will provide light bites with Crystal Ridge Distillery’s custom blended libations. If you’re a little worried about keeping up with the dancing during the performance of the Bellaire Buffs, dance instructors will be available to help you two-step throughout the night.


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