By Sally Absher

Thanks to Julya Johnson of Decoding Dyslexia –TN and Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby, Knoxville was REDEEMING RED again this year! Last Thursday was World Dyslexia Day with a celebration at Volunteer Landing to celebrate the 1 in 5 children who have dyslexia. For the second year in a row, the Henley Street Bridge was lit up in RED to honor our children who have dyslexia.

Why red? Johnson told us, “Parents of children with dyslexia often SEE RED when our children are misunderstood. Our children also see RED INK all over their papers.” In 2013, Alabama dyslexia Mom Christie Aitken decided to redeem this color that is so often negative, and instead make it a positive one for our kids. Aitkin, who formed Roundtable Solutions to bring awareness to dyslexia, designed the banner at the top of this article.

This year’s celebration, held near Calhoun’s at Volunteer Landing, also featured special appearances by SUPER HEROES from Time 4 Heroes including Captain America, Green Lantern, Batman, Spiderman, and Starlord.  There were free giveaways, including comic books from Knoxville’s New Krypton Comics, Barnes and Noble, and McKay’s Booksellers, and glow sticks provided by Commissioner Jeff Ownby.  Chick Fil A donated gift cards and toy cows to be given away as well.

One in five is certainly a big deal, and every story matters. Here is a local story that warmed our hearts. Bailey Buchanan is the eldest daughter of Chesla Gillis and Brad Buchanan.  She is 13 and an 8th grade Honors student at Karns Middle School. Bailey is also the big sister to 9-year-old Channing, who happens to have dyslexia.

Gillis, who teaches at Amherst Elementary, said, “We have known since pre school that something was different in the way our middle daughter, Channing, was reading.  Even learning her alphabet and letter sounds was exceptionally delayed and honestly, she still struggles with distinguishing vowel sounds.”  Channing is now 9 and in 4th grade at Amherst.  She loves to dance and sing and act.

Gillis added, “Bailey helps Channing with this at home and it has been great.  They are very close and spend hours at dance classes together.  Bailey immediately said she wanted some way to help that included Channing and brought awareness to what it is like to be Channing.  She is so proud of her little sister and wants her to be proud of her dyslexia because it helps shape who she is.”

According to her Mom, when Bailey got her 8th grade service Junior Honor Society project information, she knew immediately that she wanted to tackle two projects, and if she could combine them she would really be happy. Bailey explained that they are required to donate 10 hours of volunteer work to fulfill the project requirements. She has put in many more!

Bailey’s interests were #1 – helping in some regards with dyslexia, and #2 – animals, specifically her rescue dog Clover. Her initial plan was to have Clover certified as a service dog so kids could read to her. After some research and reaching out to the H.A.B.I.T. organization,  she quickly realized it wasn’t one easy step.  H.A.B.I.T. stands for Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee. H.A.B.I.T. is comprised of representatives from the UT’s College of Veterinary Medicine, volunteers from the community, and private veterinary practitioners. She is working with her Dad (it requires an adult) to get Clover certified and trained as a H.A.B.I.T. dog. She hopes to be able to have her available to go to schools for kids to read to.

In the meantime, Bailey wanted to do something to help with Dyslexia awareness locally. So she got involved with Redeeming Red in Knoxville. She helped collect and sort all the free materials that were given out and she was there helping pass them out to the children in attendance.  Channing was there too, happy to celebrate!