By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Overcoming dyslexia, recovering from a stroke and battling a disability are more like marathons than sprints.
Regional Rehabilitation Center’s physical, occupational and speech therapists often work with clients for weeks, months and sometimes years to achieve maximum progress.
On Saturday, Nov. 12, supporters of Regional Rehab will get to run their own half-marathon, inaugural Shakerag – to support the center, which does not charge any client for services.
“This really ties in to who we are and what we do,” said Kay Mathews, Regional Rehab executive director.
The 13.1-mile run will start at 9 a.m. Nov. 12 at Fairpark in downtown Tupelo. The idea for a race for Regional Rehab started with the senior project of Stephen Russell, who enlisted help from Mike Lail, a longtime member of the Tupelo Running Club.
Weather conspired to make a New Year’s Day 5K run difficult, but Lail wanted to try again.
“He has taken it and run with it,” Mathews said.
The name of the race was inspired by the marker in front of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau at the site of the historic black community that was the center of Tupelo’s blues legacy, which likely influenced a young Elvis Presley.
“The course goes past the birthplace,” Lail said, then continues up Veterans Boulevard, Elvis Presley Drive and County Road 811 to the former Dixie Creek at the intersection of Barnes Crossing Road.
After the race, participants will be treated to West End barbecue and music by the Mary Mason Band at the post-race party.
The race’s T-shirt, inspired by blues folk art and created by Sam Jacobs at Master Graphix, has drawn a lot of attention, Lail said. It incorporates images of good and evil as well as little homages to Tupelo’s most famous son.
There will be custom medals for every runner. Division winners will take home custom trophies created by Custom Trailer that echo Tupelo’s downtown guitars.
So far, more than 200 people have already signed up for the Shakerag; the field is limited to 400, Lail said.
Chris Deaton of Tupelo will be one of the hundreds on the course. His law firm is also one of the sponsors.
“I wanted to do anything I could to help Regional Rehab, and I wanted to run the half-marathon,” Deaton said.
The cause is personal for Deaton. Three of his children have received services at the center, but his youngest, Luke, now 13, has needed them the most. He was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 8.
“He was a straight A student,” Chris Deaton said, “But his mother (Dana Deaton) realized something was wrong and got him tested at Regional Rehab.”
Before he was diagnosed, when the family would make their weekly jaunts to the book store, Luke never wanted a book.
Over the course of the past five years of language therapy, Luke Deaton has been able to share his family’s love of reading, Chris Deaton said.
“Now he’s a voracious reader,” Chris Deaton said. “It’s all because of Tina Finch and Regional Rehab.”
Regional Rehab has been a family affair for the Fletchers, too. Mom Brandi received physical therapy after back surgery earlier this year. Her 10-year old daughter Hannah Fletcher is six months into therapy for dyslexia.
“Your brain doesn’t work like everybody else’s,” when you have dyslexia, said Hannah Fletcher.
Her therapy has focused on connecting words with meaning, grammar and higher level phonics rules, like knowing that “tuff” is spelled tough.
Most importantly, Hannah is able to do her homework independently.
“Her grades have improved,” Brandi Fletcher said. “Her reading level is better; her comprehension is better.”
Her mom and older sister, Bailey Fletcher, will be forming Team Hannah for the Shakerag Half-Marathon. Hannah will be volunteering on the sidelines.
“Hannah would just be in a mess if it wasn’t for Regional Rehab,” Brandi Fletcher said. “We’re very fortunate to have Regional Rehab
For 50 years, Regional Rehabilitation Center in Tupelo has helped children and adults run their own personal marathons to fight back from injuries, surgeries, disabilities and developmental delays. The Tupelo center has never charged a dime for physical, occupational and speech therapy services.
Regional Rehab takes care of about 2,000 clients a year, providing 20,000 services to people living in a 23-county area. It takes about $1 million to provide the services. The center is funded by Lee County Board of Supervisors, United Way, an annual tel-a-thon, a number of fundraising events and donations.
“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to achieve results,” Mathews said. “We keep going until maximum progress has been achieved.”
What: Shakerag Half-Marathon
When: 9 a.m. Nov. 12
Where: Fairpark, Tupelo
Benefits: Regional Rehabilitation
Center in Tupelo
Details: Tupelo Running Club –
Kevser Ermin, who was killed in a biking accident in Oxford in early October, won’t be able to run in the Shakerag Half-Marathon as she planned.
But 15 of her University of Mississippi colleagues, including her fellow graduate students from the exercise science department, will be running the race in her honor.
“Now it’s just blossomed,” said Nicole Dabbs, one of Em fellow doctoral students who is organizing the memorial group. “More than 100 people have bought T-shirts.”
The T-shirts feature the Vibram toed shoes that Ermin loved and symbols of her native Turkey.
“A lot of people are coming to support us,” Dabbs said. “I think she would have really loved it.”