Late last month, Everybody Wins DC (EWDC) held its 22nd annual gala celebration at the Capital Hilton Hotel to honor their reading mentors and supporters, celebrate their successes, and raise critical program funds.
The evening began with a silent auction where guests mingled with beloved Washington Nationals mascots, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and Super Why from PBS while bidding on incredible items. The auction, hosted by Jeff Lesher, included items such as autographed jerseys, vacation packages, wine from around the world, and book baskets donated by many of the city’s local independent bookstores.
After an introduction by the emcee, CNN’s Senior Political Correspondent, Brianna Keilar, the dinner program kicked off with a dynamic recitation of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” by the Young Poetry Queens of Amidon-Bowen Elementary School 4th grade students.
The performance was followed by Karl Racine keynote address. Karl, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, has been supporting EWDC’s work for over a decade. He told the audience, “Every child deserves what I had — consistent and reliable adults who regularly read to and with me.”
The power of EWDC’s unique model of combining reading support with building socio-emotional skills through mentoring was highlighted throughout the evening. EWDC’s new Executive Director, Dr. Molly Teas, drove this point home during her welcoming remarks. “My vision is to expand our program to more schools – because every child deserves to experience the joy of reading, a book of their own, and someone who believes in them.”
The evening continued the focus of mentoring and books with the presentation of the Minnon Friedman Mentor of the Year Award to David Sheridan from the National Education Association. After being greeted on stage by his current mentee, Humberto, David told the audience that over the 21 years he has been reading in the Power Lunch program he has seen students come and go, but joked that every one has wanted to read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” David’s amazing commitment to his mentees, reading with them from first grade through all five years of elementary school, was recognized and celebrated.
The audience was also treated to a special presentation by former reading mentor Michael Taylor and his former mentee and current college student, Blake Snyder. Michael began mentoring Blake when he was in 4th grade and the relationship has continued for well over a decade. This was a powerful reminder that mentoring relationships built in the Power Lunch program based on reading and conversations around books can have lasting impacts.
The biggest surprise of the night came when EWDC’s Board Chairman, Mark Director, took the stage to honor outgoing Executive Director, Mary Salander. Mary co-founded the organization in 1995 and served as the director for over 21 years. As a salute to her many contributions, EWDC will be opening a new Power Lunch school at Tubman Elementary in her honor. The new program at Tubman will build on Mary’s vision and the ongoing mission of the organization – to bring the joy of reading to as many students as possible.
*Images courtesy EWDC