DEO Clinic creates 'Hope, Health, Healing' run event

·4 min read

Aug. 6—Another 5K race and fun run is joining the local running calendar this year thanks to the DEO Clinic.

The 5K trail run begins at 9 a.m., with the fun run following at 9:15 a.m., Sept. 11 at Haig Mill Lake Park. Proceeds from the Hope, Health, Healing run will benefit the nonprofit, which serves individuals in Whitfield and Murray counties who are uninsured and have limited financial resources.

"There are lots of people here without insurance, and this (clinic) is a godsend for them," said Marge D'Olivo, who has been volunteering at the DEO Clinic for nearly a decade. "We used to have concerts (as) fundraisers, but we haven't done those (due) to COVID-19, so we need to find other ways," hence the event next month.

Individuals can purchase signs that will be placed along the route, said Heather Donahue, executive director of the DEO Clinic. The signs can be a means of honoring, remembering or celebrating.

"This is the 20th anniversary" of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which remains "very personal" to many, and the past year-plus has also been "tough with COVID-19," Donahue said. "This community was hit hard by COVID-19, with lots of" illness and death.

And because of COVID-19 restrictions, many weren't able to mourn loved ones in the traditional manner, Donahue said.

"Everything we'd grown accustomed to was disrupted, but we hope this (event) can be healing."

Signs may commend "someone who worked really hard during the pandemic," like a healthcare professional, or an individual who won a personal battle with COVID-19, but can also "remember someone for any reason," she said. "We think it's a nice way for our community to come together."

Signs are $25, and anyone interested should inform the DEO Clinic by Aug. 31. The deadline for sponsors for this event to notify the DEO Clinic of interest is Aug. 16, while Aug. 25 is the deadline for runners and walkers to register in order to guarantee a T-shirt.

"It's a beautiful trail," Donahue said. "It's a lovely place to be out and about and get some exercise."

Eventbrite race entry is available online at

The DEO Clinic can be reached at (706) 280-7229 or

A run is a good choice for a fundraiser, since it "ties in with our overall mission of community wellness," Donahue said. "We customize notebooks of information for (patients), our medical staff calls to coach them, and we give them scales, blood pressure cuffs," etc.

The DEO Clinic, in the Mack Gaston Community Center, was launched in 2005, and it remains "fueled by local people who care about (the) health of this community," she said. "When we're able to keep people healthy, it helps the whole community."

"We've diagnosed people with diabetes who didn't know they had it, and because they were able to get (their diabetes) under control, they could get back to work" and life, she said. Those who utilize the clinic's services "get regular visits and followups, we have some specialists who volunteer here, and (patients) may get extended care."

The clinic remained open during the pandemic, and roughly 70 volunteers complement the "small staff," she said, noting, "We rely on the generosity of this community."

Last year, the clinic partnered with the city of Dalton to offer COVID-19 testing at times the local health department wasn't open in order to give everyone opportunities to be tested, she said.

"We did about 4,000 tests, which kept us extremely busy."

The clinic is now emphasizing the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, including with testimonials on its Facebook page from doctors well-known in this community, because "our vaccination rate is too low," she said. "I'm really concerned about our community, especially with the delta variant."

The delta variant accounts for 78% of new COVID-19 cases in Georgia, and it spreads "more than twice as easily" from person to person as the original strain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The highest increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated.

"We need to protect those around us, like those too young to be vaccinated," as currently only those ages 12 and older are eligible for vaccinations, "and the unvaccinated need to mask up to protect themselves," Donahue said. "This is not a disease healthcare professionals can defeat for you, but, (rather), we need more people vaccinated."

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