Burlington paramedic John Williams and chiropractor Tom Rexroth will spend their weekend in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee. But they won’t have much of an opportunity to enjoy the scenic landscape.

Instead, the men will spend their time in a makeshift medical clinic at Heritage High School in Maryville, Tenn., providing free medical care for residents who don’t have insurance or money to see a doctor.

“It’s economically depressed down there. There are entire counties that have no doctor, no dentist, no chiropractor,” Williams said.

The two men will lend their services to the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps. Joining them will be Tom Rexroth’s son, Jason Rexroth, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Cedar Rapids, and Steve Mueller, a chiropractor in Algona.

The four men left in Williams’ van at 2 a.m. today and won’t stop driving until they hit the Appalachian Mountains about 11 hours later.

“It’s an opportunity to give back,” said Tom Rexroth, who owns Rexroth Chiropractic Center. “One of the greatest joys in life is to help other people, and this is going to be an opportunity to do that.”

Founded in 1985, RAM is a nonprofit, volunteer airborne relief corps that provides free health care, including vision and dental, to people in remote areas of the United States and the world. Though RAM provides medical supplies and three hot meals a day, travel and living expenses are paid by the volunteers.

Williams estimated the trip will cost the four men about $200 each — a pretty small price to pay to help those in need. When Williams was making reservations for a nearby motel, the clerk asked him if there would be any dentists at the clinic.

“He said his girlfriend needs a tooth pulled and a cavity filled. I told him to get down there early,” Williams said.

The clinic will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but hundreds of area residents will be waiting in line several hours before that. Williams said many remote Appalachian residents have to drive as far as 200 miles for proper care, and hundreds likely will be turned away when the clinic closes Sunday night.

“They will be standing there all day. How do you walk away from that?” Williams said.

About 250 volunteers showed up last time RAM had a clinic in Blount County two years ago, and organizers are expecting between 800 and 900 people each day. Tom Rexroth and Mueller will be the only chiropractors at the clinic, and Jason Rexroth will be the only OB/GYN.

Dental cleaning, extractions and eyeglasses usually are the most needed, since even those with insurance often can’t afford to cover both dental and optometry. Based in Knoxville, Tenn., RAM provides more than half of its service within the U.S. Much of the coverage is based around the southeast portion of the country, and RAM visits a new area every weekend.

“It’s domestic, so we’re taking care of our own,” Williams said.

Williams, a certified paramedic who works for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in Galesburg, Ill., first heard about the program through an Associated Press article that ran in the Hawk Eye a few months ago. It wasn’t long before he got his friend and chiropractor Tom Rexroth involved.

“He was ready to do it right away. He said, ‘When do we go?’ ” Williams said.

If things go well, William and Rexroth hope to volunteer for RAM a couple of more times this year. Williams already has his eye on an upcoming clinic in Virginia.

“Once we start doing this, it’s going to be addicting. We can drive to most of them (the clinics),” he said.

For more information and a complete schedule of upcoming clinics, visit the RAM Web site at www.rmausa.org.

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