KILLEEN, Texas — Smiling isn’t easy when you’ve experienced a life growing up in foster care, like Runtz Tyler, who was abandoned as a newborn by his mom.
“I was in the state of Florida and Georgia for most of the system that I was in. A lot of it was molestation, rape, abuse starvation,” said Tyler.
Tyler said during that time he barely visited a hospital for a checkup, much less go to the dentist. However, last month, he decided it was time to make an appointment and get his teeth checked out.
“I reached out to a cosmetic dentist on Instagram who I’ve been following for quite some time. I asked him if there is any way he could help me,” said Tyler.
After a free consultation, Tyler learned many of his teeth were beyond repair. He also had cavities, exposed roots, gingivitis, and several other problems.
“I found the oral surgeon who did his independent x-rays. He found that I have four cysts. One back here is eating up the nerves and my job on back there,” said Tyler.
Tyler needed immediate surgery and dental care.
“The surgeon was going to charge me $4,000 and my insurance is only going to cover $995 of that,” said Tyler.
Finding the money is easier said than done but despite the cost, Tyler’s friend and Killeen resident Conway Litty created a GoFundMe to help out.
“It’s the bare minimum I can do to save my friend's life. It’s not his fault that he was neglected here in the foster care system here in this country,” said Litty.
Within less than a month, dozens in Central Texas donated more than $4,300 covering the cost of his surgery and then some.
“To see so many people wanting to help me to see me live and to continue to live and get the smile that I deserve for many many years, it gives me some hope in humanity, to be honest,” said Tyler.
Tyler’s surgery is scheduled for Friday. He'll need $4,500 more continue repairs to his teeth.
Even though there's a long road ahead, he said the overwhelming support from the community makes smiling much easier.
Tyler and Litty say they are planning to write and support a bill to fund universal healthcare for all orphans and foster kids.
To donate to Tyler’s future expenses for recovery and surgeries to fix his teeth, click here.