Pat Dolanski – Founder of the Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association (GTDA)

Pat Dolanski is making the world a better place for those who struggle with dyslexia

Pat Dolanski founded the Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association (GTDA) in 1985 after a history of dyslexia in her own life. Her husband, Dr. Daniel Dolanski, passed away in 2012, but you would be hard-pressed to meet a more giving person. In 1987 they discovered a lot in “The Bluffs,” decided it was the most spectacular site in the world and built their home there. When traveling, they’d visit breathtaking vistas, but back on their deck overlooking East Bay, they agreed, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

Pat Dolanski with her grandchild

Because dyslexia is hereditary, Pat worried about their two daughters. Her oldest did not have learning issues. However, the younger struggled with the alphabet, reading, spelling, and math. Though she had a degree in special education, Pat lacked effective tools to help her. Ultimately, she found the Orton-Gillingham teaching approach (a directed, individual, intensive phonetic instruction for teaching reading, writing, and spelling). She started using it with a few of the students at her daughter’s school. As they succeeded, more came to her for help. Her younger daughter attended Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, ultimately earning a master’s degree. Both daughters, Jessica and Kim, now have families of their own. 

Eventually, the organization’s growth required more tutors for the students requesting help. Pat asked Arlene Sonday — vice president of what is now the International Dyslexia Association — to train these tutors. She came for several sessions, and, with more tutors and more students, eventually, the concept of a center for teaching struggling readers evolved. Nonprofit status was applied for in 1987 and granted.

Thus the Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association (GTDA) was born.

What does GTDA do? 

Provide one-on-one tutorial services for reading, writing, and spelling. We also handle limited tutoring with students struggling with math and ACT/SAT prep — community outreach to increases awareness of dyslexia. Volunteers assist and tutor students with financial needs, and GTDA is a resource for hurting parents trying to find help for their struggling children. With Martha LePine, Pat also does an annual Orton-Gillingham training class for parents, school personnel, and prospective tutors.

 How can others get involved with GTDA?

GTDA is a nonprofit, so financial help is always welcome. Call 231-929-1007 for answers to concerns or questions about dyslexia. Their specially trained Tutors all hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and have passed an Orton-Gillingham training class. Experienced tutors mentor them, and they receive monthly continuing education. Tutors all always needed, so if people match the requirements, please join the cause. It is the best job in the world!

In 2016, Dr. Nate Reed from 14th St. Chiropractic generously volunteered to represent Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association as the “star” for the SwingShift and the Stars Charity Dance-off. He danced with Jessica Mason Froehlich, Ms. Michigan State America 2016.

Over the years, GTDA has helped thousands of students. They enjoy watching someone with minimal learning confidence transform into a successful student, get into the college or a job of their choice, and call years later to celebrate their accomplishments. Students are now firefighters, pilots, architects, accountants, nurses, teachers, and physicians.

“I love our organization because we have such competent educators, and a mentoring program that helps tutors be the ‘best of the best,'” Pat concluded. “We usually have between 22 and 26 serving the needs of children and adults. We all love ‘our kids’ and celebrate every accomplishment!”

For more information, please visit their site –>

The mission of the Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association is to provide educational, charitable and supportive services to individuals with dyslexia. Our objectives are to enhance and improve the quality of our students’ lives and to maximize our students’ abilities to obtain their personal goals. If you or someone you know could benefit from our services, please visit or their Facebook page –>

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