Metro-East Living

Annual charity walk spells out help for Belleville dyslexia center

Weston Hock, of Millstadt, overcame dyslexia with the help of the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Southern Illinois, located in Belleville.
Weston Hock, of Millstadt, overcame dyslexia with the help of the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Southern Illinois, located in Belleville. Provided

When Weston Hock was in fourth grade, the frustration he felt about learning to read and spell was discovered to be dyslexia.

Luckily, he got help from the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Southern Illinois, which is celebrating its 15th year with a walk through Belleville on Saturday.

“I’d probably never made it through college if not for the center,” Weston said Tuesday. Now 24, he is a senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville studying construction management.

The Dyslexia Center in Belleville is a Scottish Rite charity that has helped 206 area children since its inception and trained 72 tutors. This school year, there are 27 students who get free one-on-one tutoring from some of those volunteers.

The Walk-A-Thon 2016 registration begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Scottish Rite Building, 1549 Frank Scott Parkway West. The walk follows opening ceremonies at 10. Choose from a 3- or 5-mile walk. On the day of the walk, cost to register is $27 for adults and $20 for children under 12.

Weston, who lives in Millstadt, is paying back the help he received as a kid by being a walk volunteer in charge of the course.

Kathleen Kennedy, 23, also will be there Saturday. She is a member of the center’s board and understands the struggles Weston went through. She attended a similar center sponsored by the Scottish Rite in Chicago when she was a child.

“I would reverse all my numbers and letters,” she said. She was diagnosed in second grade.

“I could solve a math problem and the answer would be 21 and I would write a 12 and would tell you it’s a 21 until you were blue in the face. It wouldn’t be until I sat with it ... that I realized what I wrote. Spelling has and always will continue to be a hurdle.”

Weston understands.

“What I remember is my mom and I staying up and studying for a spelling test and then I would fail the test,” he said about struggles before getting one-hour tutoring several times a week at the Belleville center.

Weston got after-school help for about four years before attending Althoff Catholic High School. A 2011 grad, he gained not just the ability to read, but confidence, too. Today, it may take him a bit longer, but he enjoys reading. “I like all kinds of books.”

Kathleen spent two years in the program in Chicago. She graduated from Webster University in St. Louis with a bachelor’s in marketing and advertising communications in 2015. She also studied abroad in London at Regents University and now works for St. Louis Magazine.

“The center gave me so much confidence academically and personally,” she said. “I was a college athlete, worked for many professional sports team and organizations in the communications department. Yes, I will always be dyslexic and it will always be a part of me, but I do not let it define me. ...”

She found the Southern Illinois Center by Googling it a year ago “because I wanted to give back to the Center for helping me out — it truly changed my life.”

Dyslexia is an inherited neurological learning disorder that affects an individual’s ability to process words and learn to read. It is a disability in learning, not in intelligence, and it affects boys and girls equally. In the United States, dyslexia may affect more than 2 million children, the center says. It is a lifelong condition that can be managed successfully, and if detected and treated early, children with dyslexia can learn and succeed academically.

Children’s Dyslexia Center of Southern Illinois Walk-A-Thon 2016

What: An annual fundraiser for the center, which is a charity of the Scottish Rite

When: Registration 9 a.m. Saturday; walk begins following opening ceremonies at 10 a.m.

Where: Scottish Rite Building, 1549 Frank Scott Parkway West

Course: Choose from a 3- or 5-mile walk that starts and ends at the Scottish Rite Building

Cost: $27, adults, day of walk; $20, children under 12