By Kristin Rover
Teams from the Clermont County Public Library, University of Cincinnati Clermont College, Clermont County Senior Services, and other businesses and organizations in the area battled it out June 14 in a competitive spelling bee fund-raiser for the Literacy Council of Clermont and Brown Counties.
“We just think it is a fun event to have,” Rose Tepe, president of the board of directors said about the spelling bee. “And at the same time it promotes what we do.”
Susan Vilardo, executive director of the Literacy Council, said the annual event went wonderfully this year.
“It was probably one of our better spelling bees,” Vilardo said. “The enthusiasm and the participation…I’ve never seen us do more with less.”
Nine teams participated in the spelling bee, some decked out in costumes that ranged from knights in paper armor to the Incredibles from the Walt Disney movie.
The bee included two rounds and a finale. Participants were given a word and could consult with their team to spell the word correctly.
“It’s fun and it challenges our brains,” Cyndy Wright, with the Park National Bank team, said about the event.
Her team member Kim Cunningham agreed.
“It’s a good cause,” Cunningham said. “And it’s a fun way to raise money for the cause.”
Vilardo said the funds raised from the event go toward their efforts educating students in Clermont and Brown counties.
“This particular fund-raiser really is our total operating cost,” Vilardo said. “It is really to help supplement our United Way contribution and individual donations. It is our way of keeping the agency floating and the doors open.”
One of the program’s students, Richard Reeves, shared his story during the event.
“I couldn’t read at all until I got into this program,” Reeves said.
He said his wife encouraged him to learn, and he said he tried multiple at-home reading programs.
“I could never keep anything in my head,” Reeves said. “It just wouldn’t stay.”
Reeves said a friend encouraged him to look into the literacy council, and finally he did.
“I was so embarrassed about this whole situation,” Reeves said. “I decided I wanted to try this.”
Reeves said that was four years ago, and today, he is able to read and continues to learn more.
“It’s great,” Reeves said. “It’s really working.”
He encouraged any adults who are struggling to read, or who don’t know how to read, to call Susan or other staff at the literacy council.
“Anybody out there, we’re all ashamed if there is something you can’t do,” Reeves said. “Don’t be.”
The lunch event also featured a silent auction, a live cake auction, a raffle, and more.
Vilardo said they raised more than $9,000 at the event. She said it is hard to put into words the appreciation she has for those who support the organization.
“It’s like taking a cell phone that needs to be charged, and it’s like re-charging it,” Vilardo said. “When you feel like everything is starting to look bleak and hopeless, to have a fund-raiser like this, I hardly have the words.”
Vilardo said she thinks about people like Richard and how reading has changed his life, and is thankful that they can continue their mission.
“I just always want a place like this to be available for adults who need it,” Vilardo said.