T.K. Martin Center prepares for annual Fun Run on Friday

Three-year-old Rifa Zanat does an alphabet exercise on a specialized tablet at the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability on Monday (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

Ryan Phillips
SDN Editor

The T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability on the Mississippi State campus will host its annual Fun Run on Friday, with hundreds expected to attend to support a worthwhile cause.

The fundraiser is the biggest of the year for the center, which provides individualized care for children with different disabilities. While the center is funded by the Mississippi Department of Education, the costs for necessary equipment is staggering, especially considering the fact that children attend for free and at no cost to their parents.

Christan Toney, a speech-language pathologist at the T.K. Martin Center, said the 5K will begin at 5 p.m. at the center and will be open to families and people of all ages.

“It was made to be for the families to be around other families in their situation that have children with other developmental disabilities and a way for the community to get involved,” Toney said. “It was a way for our family to do something as a family. There aren’t a lot of events for families that accommodate for children with special needs.”

Toney said different cheer stations will be set up along the one-mile route to provide encouragement and support to participants. Each “runner” will also receive a bib, as seen in races and marathons.

The theme for the 2018 installment of the Fun Run is the “The Greatest Fun Run on Earth,” inspired by the circus and the recent musical “The Greatest Showman.”

“They line the one mile route with signs, you can ride, you can bring your bike, tricycle, you can bring you wagons, everybody is just strolling,” Toney said.

Toney then praised the support of the university and the athletic department, saying without the community effort, paying for expensive pieces of equipment used in therapy could be burdensome and make it difficult to provide the current level of care to the children.

Some children who receive therapy at the T.K. Martin Center may bring equipment from home, but in many cases, the extra resources needed in a classroom setting can put even more of a financial strain on parents.

For instance, as Toney conducted a tour of the different levels of therapy, she pointed to several specialized chairs positioned in a circle in the middle of one of the classrooms. According to her, each chair, mostly made Rifton, a company that makes special needs chairs, can range in price from $3,000 to $5,000, depending on how specialized it may be.

Another communication device used by some students for therapy can run the center $8,000.

“Those things are very expensive, but we believe in them and use them for the classroom,” Toney said.

And with a wait list of children and parents hoping to secure a spot, the need has never been higher.

However, with the annual Fun Run, the funding has been utilized for projects like the recent renovation on the center.

Help has also come in the form of other groups chipping in both money and effort to see the center is fully-funded. These efforts include the Junior Auxiliary, who donated 35 percent of the money raised through its Kentucky Derby silent auction, which totaled $6,575 for the center.

Those funds come as part of an endowment set up in 2015.

“We actually serve an 11-county radius, so it’s throughout all the state, whoever wants to drive here,” Toney commented.

The T.K. Martin Center has the capabilities to serve children from birth until age five and in some cases longer, while also providing transition assistance as the children age out.

Toney said the Fun Run started six years ago and it is the hope of the center that with continued support, it will remain a place for children to receive the necessary therapy they need to thrive.

“That’s the big thing,” Toney said. “I was walking next to a mutual friend a couple years ago and they said couldn’t believe how many people had come out to support everybody.”