Five-year-old to lead March of Dimes walk

Published 9:58 am Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rachel Blythe, 5, of Courtland will lead the March of Dimes Walk in Franklin on Sunday. SUBMITTED

FRANKLIN—Five-year-old Rachel Blythe will lead Sunday’s March of Dimes Walk in Franklin even if it’s only a few steps.

The Ambassador Child for this year’s walk, which begins at 2 p.m. at Barrett’s Landing, Rachel just recently began taking three to five steps by herself. Born premature and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy, she normally uses a walker or wheelchair.

“I’m thinking she may do five (steps at the March of Dimes walk), possibly a little more,” said her mother, Kim Blythe of Courtland. “I don’t want to see her doing too much. If she takes her time, she can do more.”

“I don’t know how she will do in front of a crowd,” Blythe added. “She’s kind of bashful.”

Rachel was born 3½ months early. She weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces and was 13 inches long. When Rachel was two weeks old, she developed a bacterial infection and was given a 20 percent chance of surviving; the chance of brain damage was at least 80 percent.

At 28 months, Rachel was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. Since then, she’s learned to take a few steps and develop a little vocabulary.

In her third year of preschool at Nottoway Elementary, Rachel has physical, occupational and physical therapy during school. She does the same twice a week at Southside Physical Therapy in Franklin and three times during the summer.

Southside physical therapist Kevin Schrack thinks it’s fantastic that Rachel will be leading the walk for the March of Dimes, whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and premature births.

“She’s quite smart and has a very strong personality,” Schrack said. “She’s a great choice to lead the march.”

Since starting at Southside Physical Therapy two years ago, Rachel has gone “from somebody who was sedentary to a child who can crawl and a child who can do some limited walking,” Schrack said.

Blythe said her daughter is limited to a few three- to four-word sentences and is still working on two- and three-syllable words.

“It’s taken her a long time to say three or four words,” Blythe said. “For a long time, she could only say one word.”

The family has had Rachel involved with the March of Dimes since she was 2.

“Technology has come a long way,” her mom said. “You can’t always listen to doctors. They didn’t think Rachel was going to do anything.”

Blythe is confident her daughter will continue to improve her ability to walk and communicate.

“It’s gonna happen,” she said. “It just takes her longer to do things.”

Rachel’s older brother, Kendall, will attend the March of Dimes walk with Cub Scout Pack 17. Kendall will lead “The Pledge of Allegiance.”

Registration for the walk begins at 1 p.m.