Senator Harkin Sheds Tears over an Everybody Wins Emotional Surprise

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David Hill, Niyiabe Kanye and Precious Abraham

Senator Tom Harkin couldn’t help shedding some tears Tuesday night at the 18th annual Gala for Everybody Wins! DC, a nonprofit organization devoted to cultivating children’s literacy through shared reading experiences.   The Democrat from Iowa who has mentored a number of young readers at Brent Elementary over the last 16 years not only received recognition and a Pioneer Award, he came face to face with one of his earliest efforts — and the pride came pouring out.

A special surprise guest — Amy, Harkin’s first Everybody Wins! DC mentee — flew across the country to honor him and give him firsthand proof that he had made a difference in her life.

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Frank Craighill and Sarah Waites Elkins with Suzie Boggs and Kevin North

“I am the child of an immigrant.  I am from a broken home.  But I am not a statistic… because of all of you here tonight,” beamed Amy, a High School Senior who has already been accepted to one of her top choice colleges (Arizona State).  She gave particular credit to the Senator for being a “Father-figure” in the absence of one in her own home.

“Who could be a better reading mentor than a Senator who crafts bills for improvement in education, civil rights and agriculture; a Senator with a strong sense of social justice and who cares about people?”

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Felipe Leon, Marina Nicholson, Minni Gupta

Overcome with sentiment and almost too surprised to take the stage, Harkin, who described his 16 years of reading with Everybody Wins DC as a “sheer joy” and “one of the best hours of the week I spend,” reminisced over some of the books he read with Amy and his current mentee, Luther.

He explained that although he’ll be retiring and leaving the local program, he has started a chapter of the Everybody Wins! organization in Des Moines and plans to continue to dedicate his time and page-turning talents.  And it seems he’ll keep looking after Amy as well.

“If you go to Arizona State,” he told her and the audience, “the President of Arizona State is a good friend of mine.  I’ll get you the best dorm room a Freshman ever had!”

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