As she ran her first Mississippi road race along the banks of Deer Creek, Heather Gholson took in the fall scenery surrounding this Delta community.
“It’s just so pretty out here and the people are so great,” said Heather, who, with her husband, Drew, recently moved to Leland from College Station, Tex. “This event is obviously an important part of the identity of this town and we were so glad to be part of it.”
Heather, who just came on board as communications coordinator for the Delta Health Alliance (DHA) was one of hundreds who attended Leland’s annual Frogfest — a celebration of the arts in honor of Jim Henson, who spent his boyhood in Leland – where he was inspired to create the Muppets. The event features a kids fun run, a 5K race, a chili cook-off, a magic show, balloon art, hands-on art activities, face painting and live music.
And for the third consecutive year, the festival included a 5k race for residents, thanks to the efforts of DHA and project director Kendarius Moore, who restarted the event after years of dormancy and then added a children’s race. Together, the two races attracted more than 160 runners this year.
“This was the biggest one yet,” said Moore. “It’s been growing every year. It has brought a real sense of community through its diversity and pride among the participants for their hometown.”
Partnering with the Leland Chamber of Commerce, DHA offered participation in the races at no charge and generated publicity with the help of local media. The success of the events is important to Moore, who grew up in Leland.
“Leland holds a special place for me and so my efforts to make this a great event come from a desire to give something back to the community that raised me,” said Moore, a graduate of Delta State University with a degree in exercise management.
In fact, Moore, who did not initially intend to participate in the 5k, joined at the last moment,. Dressed in street clothes, he finished the race with relative ease, smiling broadly through the finish line.
The 5k and other DHA-sponsored events serve to promote the programs it offers through its Deer Creek Promise Community (DCPC). Established about four years ago, DCPC is patterned after the successful Indianola Promise Community to unite healthcare, education, government, community and faith-based organizations in developing a pipeline of academic, family and community resources. Sponsored by DHA, the promise community is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
DCPC focuses on the students who attend the Hollandale School District and the Leland School District in Washington County. The goal of the Deer Creek Promise Community is to ensure that children are ready for Kindergarten, that students get help quickly, that young people graduate, and transition to post-secondary education.
In all DCPC is comprised of 30 programs that work together to expand the health care and educational opportunities for children and their families in Arcola, Hollandale, Leland and the surrounding un-incorporated areas.
DCPC programs include:
- Summer camps that bridge the gap between school breaks
- Deer Creek Dinners – a program that brings families closer to together
- The Parent Engagement Program that helps parents to be more involved in children’s education
- CARES, or Children are Reaching Excellence with Support
- The Deer Creek Youth Council
For his part, Moore is always looking for ways to improve the events and programs that impact lives in the DCPC. After the first Frogfest 5k three years ago, he said he was determined to help establish a Deer Creek youth council similar to the Indianola Youth Council, which proved to be one of DHA’s most important programs for young people to gain a voice in their community.
And he did.