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November 10, 2017

Seen: Road to Reading gala at Botanic Gardens

By Joanne Davidson. Originally published in The Denver Post.

Statistics help tell a story, but when it comes to making an impact, a personal story like Janalyn’s trumps a bunch of numbers every single time.

Janalyn had struggled with reading until two years ago, when she was paired with Nancy Jarrell, a tutor from Reading Partners Colorado.

Their weekly tutoring sessions enabled Nancy to help Janalyn make “significant progress” in reading, progress that has put Janalyn on equal footing with her fellow fifth-graders.

Margie Thirlby, senior executive director of Reading Partners Colorado, shared this story when 300-plus supporters gathered in Mitchell Hall at Denver Botanic Gardens for the second Road to Reading Gala.

Thirlby related how Janalyn is confident that “I will move forward” and that she is determined to fulfill her dream of growing up to be a stand-up comedian.

The fundraiser began with beer and wine tastings, an hors d’oeuvres buffet from Catering by Design, and silent auction bidding in the Mitchell Hall foyer. Afterward, CBS4 anchor Tom Mustin introduced auctioneer Jim Berz, who conducted the “heads or tails” prize drawing before asking for bids on items that ranged from an African safari to a dinner and wine tasting for eight donated by  Kevin Grossi, owner/chef at The Regional in the Avanti Food and Beverage hall, and Kara Williams, a sommelier and chair of the Reading Partners Colorado board.

Reading Partners, headquartered in Oakland, Calif., established its Colorado chapter in 2012 when Mile High United Way leveraged a Social Innovation Fund grant to support early literacy efforts in the state. Since then, Reading Partners Colorado volunteers have delivered over 100,000 hours of one-on-one literacy tutoring to some 3,000 students attending schools in low-income neighborhoods.

This year, Reading Partners Colorado has a presence in 10 Denver public schools where 800 volunteers are delivering weekly tutoring to 600 students.

Gala-goers included Sarah Herron, the founder of SheLift, a nonprofit organization that gives women with physical differences the chance to participate in what she describes as “once-in-a-lifetime adventure experiences.” Prior to founding SheLift, Herron was a contestant on two reality shows: “The Bachelor” and “Bachelor in Paradise.”

Others helping to support the cause were such event sponsors Shawn Alfrey and Erich Bethke, Ed and Roxanne Fie Anderson and Brett and Sarah Davis; Bruce and Karen Barker; Lars Ruggles; John Gregg; Logan Lauterbach; Ana Salas; David Larance; Mimi and Kevin Costelo; Dan Galemba; Pat Heneghan; and Denver Business Journal editor Neil Westergaard with his wife, Cindy, a member of the Reading Partners board.

Joanne Davidson: 303-809-1314, partiwriter@hotmail.com and @joannedavidson on Twitter

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