Leading with the motto “helping others help the community,” Dr. Daron Praetzel and Ernie Hinz of The Faces Foundation offer patients reconstructive cosmetic procedures at no cost — in exchange for community service.
By Barrett Gay | Photography Courtesy of The Faces Foundation
At The Faces Foundation, the cost of an operation isn’t measured in dollars, but in community service hours.
In 2011, Dr. Daron Praetzel, CEO and founder of the foundation, recognized an unmet need in Arkansas for corrective facial surgeries. Prospective patients – several of whom are children – meet many challenges as a result of their cosmetic abnormalities. These procedures are rarely covered by insurance, making it financially unfeasible for most families. Dr. Praetzel – a board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon and board certified facial cosmetic surgeon who owns the Arkansas Center For Surgical Excellence and co-owns Arkansas Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons with Dr. Aaron Baldwin – had the skill and will to help, but he wasn’t content to simply provide the services free of charge.
Despite an inability to pay, patients could certainly donate time + energy to a local nonprofit organization. Through The Faces Foundation, Dr. Praetzel and Ernie Hinz, foundation president and executive director, established strategic partnerships with groups including Habitat for Humanity, First Step, Jackson House and Abilities Unlimited – with outlined expectations. Patients approved for surgery by the foundation’s selection committee agree to serve a determined number of hours at a partner organization prior to their procedure. Dr. Praetzel and Dr. Baldwin then waive their surgical fees, and donations to the foundation supplement remaining expenses.
“We encourage patients not to do their hours by themselves but to organize their church group, sports team, school, families or friends and all go for a weekend — several hours later they’ve completed their service, and then they can have their surgery,” Dr. Praetzel explains.
Ernie finds the most joy visiting with patients post-op. “You can see a change in their personality. I’ve had applicants come into the office who are uncomfortable looking me in the eye — their peers have been bullying them for years, so some have developed a self-esteem issue. A short time after the surgery you can see a perceptive difference in their persona — they’re taking selfies, they’re looking directly into your eyes and smiling. That is so rewarding, you can’t imagine,” he says. “They look at themselves differently. They have new expectations and career goals — their future looks brighter. Without exception, after the surgery, almost every patient says, ‘Let us know if we can help complete volunteer hours for someone else.’ Those are the changes that make your day.”
In addition to boosting confidence and self-esteem, Dr. Praetzel delights in watching Hot Springs residents volunteer to fulfill the foundation’s mission. “To see schools and churches stepping up to the plate, asking, ‘How can we help?’, that’s as impactful and rewarding for me as seeing the eyes of the patient and the family after the surgery’s done,” he notes.
Three years ago, Dr. Praetzel and his team reintroduced Oktoberfest to Hot Springs as the foundation’s signature fundraiser. “I really want this to be a showcase community event that is embracing everyone,” Ernie says. “This gives not only us, The Faces Foundation, an opportunity to raise money, but concurrently for other small businesses in the downtown and regional community to showcase themselves by offering a vehicle for visibility.” While sipping on local brews, guests can enjoy a performance by the Arkansas Accordion Association as well as festivities for families and dog owners.
Above all, Dr. Praetzel values the concept of ‘paying it forward,’ and through The Faces Foundation, he’s encouraging his neighbors to embrace this mission.
Hobbies: marathons + triathlons
Philosophy to live by: I live by ‘hard work and persistence.’ I believe that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not.
Inspiration: My father, Robert Praetzel. He would always say, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” He was always a mentor and leader, and he was able to overcome significant struggles in life and lead by his example.