Education is the key to success, and a passion for reading makes education that much easier. It is for this reason that for nine years the local community has been coming together in order to support local schools in inspiring youngsters to read with the Reading Rocks! Walk-A-Thon. Belinda Cashwell the director of media services for Reading Rocks! says, “Literacy opens the doors for every opportunity. Literacy is the window to the world, and without it a community will not flourish. A nation will not flourish, so we want the very best reading materials available in our school libraries. This year we are trying to make the move to being 25 percent digital so it’s really important that we have the best materials available. We have a program to really bring it full circle with students reading then using commuters to check their comprehension, and involving the whole family in reading. We want this to be a family affair and a community affair. We are passionate about reading and providing the best materials, and we have great parents contributing.”
Reading Rocks is a local fundraiser put on by Cumberland County Schools that donates the proceeds to buy new books for local schools. In each school, kids collect money and often local businesses donate to help support this investment in the community’s future leaders. This year Cargill Inc. is the largest sponsor. Last year more than $225,000 was raised and 20,000 people participated in the walk-a-thon. Every year the turn out and donations improve as the community rallies around the fundraiser, and this year the “Nifty Ninth,” expectations are even higher. The Cumberland County School System is calling for 25,000 walkers this year, surpassing last year’s attendance by 5,000 supporters.
“This thing has just grown. Cargill is our largest corporate sponsor, each year donating $10,000 - $15,000. We just got Lafayette Business Machine and many other corporate sponsors both large and small. Our penny war has amazed us; we raise more than $20,000 in just pennies,” Cashwell says.
At the walk-a-thon groups of students and faculty will represent their schools, and the schools that have raised the most money will lead the walkers. All along the route school bands will play for the entertainment of the walkers. There will also be mascots roaming the crowd helping in the celebration.
“The walk is 1.3 miles. We intentionally don’t make it too long because many of our walkers are young students. Our youngest walker has been about two weeks old and our oldest around 90. The people at Heritage Place and other local nursing homes bring rocking chairs out and rock for reading rocks. Even thought they can’t walk they rock around the route, “ says Cashwell proving that you don’t need to be able to walk to support the Reading Rocks Walk-A-thon.
The NCAEOP Secretaries will have breakfast for participants, with cheesy grits, bacon, coffee and hot chocolate, among other things for sale. All the money raised through the sales goes to scholarships for local high school students.
Reading Rocks! Walk-A-Thon will take place on Oct. 20 at 9 a.m. at Festival Park, which is located at 335 Ray Ave. For more information about the walk-a-thon or about being a sponsor, call 678-2613, the Cumberland County Schools’ Social Media Services.