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Angel Enhances Dyslexia Services in Centre County

by on December 23, 2013 6:00 AM

For my December columns this year, I decided to feature the Angels who live in the Centre Region who make a difference in our community.

This week, meet Larry Emigh.

I put out a call to friends and colleagues asking for suggestions for my "people who do good works" columns. I heard back from a former student, Jeremy Bean, who suggested his father–in-law. Jeremy and his wife Jennifer Emigh Bean, another former student, are near and dear to my heart because they started dating when they met in their small group in my class several years ago.

My connection to Larry is one of those small town, friend of a friend, just handshakes away connections that define small communities like State College. He lives on the same street as my in-laws and my husband's lab is in the same building as their store.

Larry Emigh is also the driving force behind the Children's Dyslexia Center of State College.

Dyslexia is the most common form of learning disability in children and adults. A person with dyslexia has difficulty with translating the images needed for reading which often means struggles in a traditional school setting. Dyslexia does not mean that the person is "retarded" or can't learn; individuals with dyslexia and the educators who work with them must rely on alternative methods of teaching and processing information to maximize student success. Sadly, children with dyslexia are often misdiagnosed, negatively labeled and frustrated in school – all of which can result in behavior issues and a negative stigma.

The Children's Dyslexia Center of State College provides free learning support for children with dyslexia in Centre County as well as in the surrounding 15 counties. Using a variety of multi-sensory, sequential teaching strategies, the professionals at the Children's Dyslexia Center, assist their young charges in relying on different ways to interpret the written word. Further, the Children's Dyslexia Center offers a training program for educators and other professionals to assist them in working with the unique processing needs of children with dyslexia.

Did I mention that the services are free of charge?

Originally from Pitcairn, a little town 15 miles east of Pittsburgh, Larry was working as a Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) trooper in Western Pennsylvania back in the 1960s. With encouragement from the PSP to get his degree, the Fayette campus was only offering two year degrees. A transfer to the Rockview Barracks, completion of his degree at Penn State and meeting his wife Kay, and within no time, another State College "local" was born.

Larry's assignments with the State Police varied from patrol to public relations, criminal investigator to drug enforcement. His last years were spent in liquor control enforcement. Now retired with over 30 years of service, Larry and Kay, live in Boalsburg where they raised Jen and her brother Jonathon. Kay spent many years as a teacher for the Bald Eagle Area School District before buying the Growing Tree on Allen Street.

As a member of the local Masons, Larry shared with me the many charities and organizations that the Masons support. Muscular Dystrophy. Schizophrenia research. Shriner's Hospitals for Children. Dyslexia.

In 1994, when the Masons opened their first Children's Dyslexia Center in Boston, it piqued Larry's interest. Feeling that the Centre Region needed similar services, he applied to the Masons for approval for a center here in 2006 and in January of 2007, they opened their doors to accept the first child.

Larry didn't stop there. He's been a huge force in raising money for the center. In 2012, Larry embarked on cross country bike ride to raise awareness about dyslexia and to raise money for the center. Starting in Manhattan Beach, California, when Larry and the other 21 riders arrived in Boston and Larry dipped his front bike tire in the Atlantic Ocean, he had raised over $20,000 for the Children's Dyslexia Center.

"In the community where I grew up, if people needed help you gave it to them" he says. "The fire companies helped people. I watched my parents give and support the sick. I grew up in that atmosphere."

I asked Larry about his seven week, 3,415 mile, cross country ride. "It's difficult to explain" he said as he tried to maintain his composure. "Every day something flashes for me from that trip. The route we took was obviously slow. We got to meet so many people. We would stop for water and people would come out and ask what we were doing. They were interested in how they could help."

Larry shared the story of getting a message at the hotel where they were staying in Kansas. A young mother had been following the ride through Larry's blog and decided to take the day off of work so she could bring her son to meet the riders. They didn't have a dyslexia center in their town but the woman and her parents were trying to learn everything they could to help her boy.

That mother emailed Larry two days after they met. Her son had been just about ready to give up on school but was inspired to go on by meeting Larry and hearing about the help that is available to kids with learning struggles.

Larry's efforts will continue this year with the inaugural 2014 Tour for Dyslexia - a local bike tour with 75 and 35 mile options starting at the Centre Country Grange Fair grounds and winding through the beautiful Central PA landscape. If you are interested in riding in the tour or in helping kids with Dyslexia, put May 17, 2014 on your calendar. You can learn more about the event by clicking HERE.

It takes approximately $5000 per year to cover one child for the twice weekly, 2 year long tutoring program. Click HERE to learn more about the Children's Center for Dyslexia or to make a donation.

Like the others Angels that I have written about, Larry was humble and not looking for fanfare.

"More than the spotlight being on me, I want to make sure that it's about children with dyslexia and the center."

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Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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