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Kindergartener delivers brush with greatness

DeAnna DiNatale hardly seems old enough to have won a statewide poster contest. She stands about 3{ feet tall and weighs about 50 pounds.

But the petite, soft-spoken kindergartener at Notre Dame Interparochial School took first place in the kindergarten division of the 1997 Florida Dental Association's Children's Dental Health Poster Contest. Her winning poster, along with the first- through fifth-grade winners, will be on display at the dental association's annual conference in Orlando in June.

DeAnna, the daughter of Linda and Frank DiNatale of Hudson, also received a $250 U.S. savings bond and gold medal. A plaque, along with $125, was given to Notre Dame. The school will put the money into the school's building fund. DeAnna has no idea what she will do with her money.

"I think it'll be saved for me," she said.

DeAnna was not really clear about what she had accomplished, either. All she knew was that she did what her art teacher asked. Her teacher told her to draw a picture about something that had to do with dentists and brushing teeth. The theme of this year's contest was "Wild About a Healthy Smile."

DeAnna drew a picture of a lion brushing its teeth. "That's wild, isn't it?" she said.

When she grows up, DeAnna wants to be an artist, just like an uncle who she says helps her draw. Mostly, she uses markers. Sometimes, she uses crayons and paints.

DeAnna said she thinks it is important to take care of her teeth. She said she brushes about twice a day and goes to the dentist.

She never has had a cavity, or none that she can remember.

"I don't know if I had any when I was a baby," she said. "But I know I don't have any now."

The poster contest is sponsored each year by the dental association, in conjunction with local dentists, in February, which is National Dental Month. Dentists are assigned to schools in their areas, and make presentations to the students about dental health and establishing good brushing habits.

The contest is introduced early in the school year, in order to give judges, who are members of the association, time to do their work by February. First, district winners are chosen and sent to the state level. DeAnna won the district, which includes several counties along the west coast of Florida, said Beverly Reso, the office manager at the Ackley Dental Group in Spring Hill.

"We had a tremendous response this year," Reso said. "This is a very worthwhile project that is fun for the kids."

Dr. Eva Ackley presented a dental health program to pupils at Notre Dame.

DeAnna said she has never won a contest before. In fact, she has never entered a contest. Her classmates at Notre Dame are proud of her, she said.

"They all said congratulations and stuff like that," DeAnna said. "They were happy. Me, too."