10-06-2010readingrocks_color_logo_small-1.jpgThere are 88 schools in Cumberland County. That’s 53 elementary schools, 15 middle schools, 14 high schools, one year round classical school and five special schools according to the Cumberland County Schools website. More than 52,000 students attend these schools — 52,187 in fact — and almost half of them (24,271) are elementary school students. You know, elementary school, the place where students not only learn to read, but where they also learn to love reading — and support and encouragement are a key part of that. Well, here in Cumberland County there is plenty of support to go around.

For the past six years the Cumberland County Education Foundation has partnered with the Cumberland County School System to host the Reading Rocks! Walk-a-thon. The event has grown to more than 15,000 participants and this year event organizers are hoping to see upwards of 17,000 folks filling Festival Park and walking through downtown to support public education, specifically literacy in our schools. “The walk starts at 9 a.m. and everyone gathers in Festival Park beginning around 8 a.m.,” said Cumberland County Education Foundation representative Cindy Kowal. “All 88 schools participate and there are more than 15,000 people downtown for that.”

This year, there is a new component to the event — a 5k run. The run starts at 7 a.m. at the Medical Arts Building. “We just thought that was a way to kick things up a notch and add another component for folks who are ready to do a little more than walk 1.5 miles,” said Kowal. “We are just adding the 5k which is 3.1 miles. People will run up the hill into Haymount and then come back down and finish at the Medical Arts Building and the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. That way once folks are finished with the run they can go over to Festival Park and participate in the festivities there and cool down and walk with their family or little ones or however they want to do it.”

Not only is the walk fun and invigorating, it is a way to raise money to support literacy that the whole community can participate in. Unlike other fundraisers out there, 100 percent of the money raised stays in the schools. “It is make it, take it,” said Kowal. “Each school keeps the money they raise — so there is really an incentive. You help yourself. You raise a lot of money, you keep a lot of money.”

Kowal added that the Cumberland County Reading Rocks! funds are used completely for literacy efforts in the schools. That can be anything from novel sets in the high schools to classroom books for teachers in elementary schools, media center materials — all kinds of things as long as it is about literacy and books.

Not only is Reading Rocks! a chance to enjoy some family time and get a little exercise, it is for a good cause. It’s for our schools, our kids and the future generations of Cumberland County residents. You’ll be in good company.

“It is amazing to see how many people from all over the community come out to support this,” said Kowal. “Parents pulling kids in wagons, the high school bands are performing along the route — it really shows you that there is community wide support for public education and that is what is really exciting about it for me. When you see the park filled and you see how many people come out — to know that they came out at the crack of dawn on a Saturday, when that is a busy day for all families, it is a really amazing and very, very motivating experience because you know there is support for public education and literacy in our schools. It is something that everybody just gets behind which is really good.”

You don’t have to have a student in the school system to donate. Visit http://www.ccedfoundation.org/ for more info or to become a sponsor. To register for the run, go to active.com. To join fun, be at Festival Park on the morning of Oct. 16. There is something for everyone to enjoy!

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