NEWINGTON – In the name of supporting youth with dyslexia, dozens gathered for the annual 2022 Scottish Rite Run for Dyslexia Road Race at the 207 Deming Street Valley of Hartford location, Saturday morning.
Uncertain of the exact origin date of the race, event organizer Gordon Hurlbert said the race has continued for over a decade. Over the last two years, the race was cancelled due to the pandemic. The organizer noted the race had a strong presence over the years and its supporters hoped to bring back that same momentum.
“It’s a fun race,” said Hurlbert. “It’s a little uphill and a little downhill. All our volunteers are part of the Scottish Rite, and friends and family and the boys and girls from DeMolay and Rainbow, two youth Masonic organizations. It’s one of the hottest days of the year and we’re out here running.”
He continued saying the race couldn’t be held without its volunteers.
Dave Sharkis, director of operations for Children’s Dyslexia Centers, said the race has always been dedicated to supporting the organization’s mission. Based out of Lexington, Massachusetts, there are 45 centers spread throughout the Northeast and Midwest regions of the country. Three of those centers are in Connecticut. The first center created in Connecticut was stationed in Waterbury. Farmington is the site of another as well as Bridgeport.
Children’s Dyslexia Centers are a registered charity of the Scottish Rite.
“They’re our primary funding organization,” said Sharkis. “We provide all our services, training and tutoring to kids absolutely free of charge. It’s important that we have good support from both the community and the fraternity to give us the ability to do what we do.”
The director said the centers often work with teachers and parents to help identify signs of dyslexia in order to help youth learn how to handle their challenges. The centers work with children of all school grade ages. Sharkis noted that youth who might struggle with reading or letters may be identified with having dyslexia.
“If a parent or a guardian comes to us, we’ll work with them to get the necessary screening. If our program fits that child’s needs and we feel we can help, that child gets admitted on a first come, first serve basis to our center,” said the director. “We’ve been doing this for over two decades and have tutored, free of charge, almost 20,000 kids and trained over 5,000 teachers.”
Runner Deborah Olsen said this was her first time taking part in the Newington race and that she was a member of the Run 169 Towns Society, a group focused on dashing in all of Connecticut's 169 towns.
“This a town that I need and I’m here to run a race,” she said. “I’ve been running with the club for a long time and know the original members. I’ve been taking my time getting my towns. I’ve been doing this (running races) probably 10 years or longer. I still haven’t gotten them all but that’s okay. I’m up to 132.”
Olsen noted she always looks to see what a race may support before taking part in the cause and felt the Newington race was a good one.
Eric Watters, also a member of the Run 169 Towns Society, said this was his tenth race of the season. He runs around 50 miles in a week to prepare for such events.
“I love doing it,” said Watters of supporting race causes. “Just to get out and do it and see all kinds of different people. Most races you’ll see people you know.”
Mario Vazquez, of New Britain, finished the race first with a time of 16:26.
“It’s a great cause,” he said. “It’s been going on a long time. . . It’s a challenging course with the weather but that’s what makes you stronger.”