Annual event raises over $64,000 for literacy council

Published on Tuesday, 4 August 2015 22:55 - Written by AUGUSTA ROBINSON,


Chris Carr took the stage for the Literacy Council of Tyler’s Corporate Spelling Bee on Tuesday dressed head-to-toe in a bunny suit, and his teammate, Amy McDuffie, dressed as Tweedledum — both characters from the children’s book “Alice in Wonderland.”

“It was worth it,” Carr said. “It just creates awareness for the Literacy Council, and it’s all for a good cause.”

The pair represented Suddenlink-Mid South and was among 17 teams that competed, hoping to earn their respective businesses and organizations the honor of winning this year’s bee, which was themed “Once Upon a Spelling Bee” and encouraged participants to show up dressed as characters from their favorite fairy tales.

The event, which was sponsored by Michelle and Tim Brookshire, Mentoring Minds and the Tyler Morning Telegraph, was attended by more than 500 people and raised more than $64,000 for the Literacy Council of Tyler to use toward its adult literacy programs.

Literacy Council Executive Director Nancy Crawford said the event was a success and served a great purpose.

“We will probably be able to serve 100 students with today’s event,” Ms. Crawford said. “It’s the best event in town in terms of fun.”

Bob Roseman attended dressed as “Cat in the Hat” in support of the Prothro, Wilhelmi & Co.’s spelling team. He was accompanied by more than 20 other supporters of the spelling team who all dressed as Thing One and Thing Two, characters from the popular Dr. Seuss book. The large group of red-shirted, blue-haired things took the spelling bee’s prizes for best costume and most spirited team.

“We found the wigs, we found the shirts, dressed me up and we had a fun time with it,” Roseman said. “We are thrilled to be able to have fun for a cause.”

Potter Minton’s team, which included Jo Vallery and Ronald Stutes, took the prize as this year’s spelling bee champions. Ms. Vallery sealed the win by spelling sassafras.

Ms. Vallery said the bee showed there is a need for everyone to practice spelling, especially in a today’s era of technology.

“It was a great competition, and it just goes to show that technology has ruined a lot of our abilities to spell,” Ms. Vallery said. “We have got to get back to the basics.”

Ms. Crawford also hopes this year’s theme of children’s books is able to motivate parents to help their children master basics, such as reading, so they are more successful in school.

“If parents are not reading to their children, their children are not going to do as well in school,” Ms. Crawford said. “Even though we work just with adults, we’re promoting that adults learn how to read effectively to their children so the children can succeed in school.”

During the bee, the Literacy Council of Tyler also presented Elizabeth Arellano with the Star Student Award. Ms. Arellano credits the organization for helping her attain a GED, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree and an advanced master’s degree in social work.

“Through this journey of education, even though I was so scared of everything I had to face, I kept positive, and I was able to accomplish my education,” Ms. Arellano said during a video presentation at the spelling bee. “I want thank the awesome donors who invest their money for all those who want to continue with their education and accomplish their goals.”

Success stories like Ms. Arellano’s are what Ms. Crawford said the spelling bee was all about.

“I always hope that everybody gets reminded that there are thousands of adults in Smith County who need these services,” Ms. Crawford said. “All they need is a little extra help so they can move up in their work and the attainment of a degree.”