By Morgan Bryce
Staff Reporter

The East Alabama Medical Center and Jean Dean RIF are partnering for the 10th annual Run to Read event, scheduled for Oct. 21 at Floral Park in Opelika.
Cathy Gafford, Jean Dean RIF (Reading is Fundamental) director, said proceeds from the event will benefit her organization, which provides more than 25,000 Alabama children with age-appropriate books.
“A person who has no books in their home really has no hope of learning to read … it’s an important addition to a child’s life so that they can take advantage of a public education, then do well in school and do well in life,” Gafford said.
The event will kick off with a flag ceremony at 7:30 a.m., a proclamation from Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller naming Oct. 21 as ‘Run to Read Day’ in the city, and comments from EAMC’s CEO Terry Andrus.
Featured competitions for this year include 5 and 8-kilometer runs, the Sara Schwarzauer 1.5-mile walk, Clifford’s 50-yard dash for children 5 and under and a quarter-mile ‘Ope-Lika’run for children ages 6-9.
Gafford said there will be other free, family-friendly activities happening during the races. Nursing students from Auburn’s Via College of Medicine will provide health screenings, Opelika author Richard Oden will be available for a meet-and-greet to discuss his latest book, and special guests including Clifford the Big Red Dog and Aubie will be present at the event. Door prizes for children and adults will follow the conclusion of the races.
“All of us run or walk every day, and with today’s interest in health and understanding of how important it is to have exercise, this is the ideal event to support Jean Dean RIF and support yourself as an individual,” Gafford said.
Gafford added that participants are asked to bring a new or slightly used pair of shoes for their Shoes4Books drive, which lasts until Oct. 31. Working with Funds2Org, the program will be paid by the pound for shoes collected, which help cover book purchases. According to its press release, Jean Dean RIF raised $2,700 last year.
Pre-registration is open now until midnight Oct. 15, and forms are available at, or The cost is $20 for people 15 and older and $8 for people 14 and under, and event shirts are guaranteed. Day-of-registration starts at 7 a.m., costing $25 for people 15 and older, and $10 for people 14 and under.
Floral Park is located at 600 Floral Park St. For more information and full schedule for the event, visit