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HomeBusiness & CommunityUnited Way Kickball Fundraiser for Literacy, April 6

United Way Kickball Fundraiser for Literacy, April 6

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For nearly a decade, United Way has delivered a sound kickstart to the cause of childhood literacy. This year’s United Way of Hernando County’s 9th Annual “KICK” Start to Early Literacy Kickball Tournament promises to put more balls beneath the feet of avid players and more books into the hands of enthused children.

The tournament, presented by United Way’s “Grand Slam Champion” sponsors, Tampa General Hospital Spring Hill/Brooksville, is set to kick off at noon on Saturday, April 6, at Anderson Snow Park – 1360 Anderson Snow Rd, Spring Hill. A total of 16 kickball teams compete in this single-elimination tournament, with the ultimate goal of winning the prize of the Ultimate Traveling Trophy and the crown of “Champions of Early Literacy.” These exclusively invited teams represent company partners of United Way in Hernando.

All proceeds from the “KICK” Start to Early Literacy Kickball Tournament will benefit United Way’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, which presently provides more than 1,050 Hernando children with a free book every month from birth to the age of five.

The books are mailed directly to enrolled children, regardless of their family’s economic status. The Kickball Tournament’s purpose is to support early literacy, continuing to provide Hernando preschool children with free books to stock their own little library and prepare them for kindergarten.

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In the eyes of Angie Bonfardino-Walasek, executive director/CEO of United Way of Hernando County, the tournament—and the cause and project that it represents—aligns with the mission of United Way of Hernando County.

“United Way’s mission is “to inspire leaders and partners, and mobilize resources to strengthen the lives of people in the community.” With education being one of United Way’s priority areas, our community’s passion for supporting early literacy has sparked so many conversations around parental engagement and kindergarten readiness,” she said. “United Way is honored to help mobilize such creative resources for both, through our Dolly Parton Imagination Library program (Born Learning Trails, etc).”

Country superstar Dolly Parton is indeed the driving force behind the Imagination Library (Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library) (DPIL). According to https://www.unitedwayhernando.org/support-early-literacy, these top-quality, age-appropriate books can even elevate literacy testing scores.
The Kick Start Tournament, in Walasek’s view, is the ideal way to raise funds for this effort.

“With the proceeds raised from last year alone, we were able to approve an additional 1,048 1-year preschool scholarships on the program (equivalent to 12,576 books distributed)!” she said.

In addition to the kickball games, guests will enjoy a Food Truck Rally; a Touch a Truck event; and a Mascot Fun Run; plus raffle prizes. This family fun day also will include music courtesy of PJ the DJ, a Bounce House and Carnival Games, Foto Fun Booth, craft vendors, a Kid Zone, and a performance of the National Anthem by Hernando’s own Snow Anna Mazourek.

Each team is represented by a “Celebrity Coach,” who will face the additional challenge of generating enough votes from the crowd to avoid a fateful dip in the event Dunk Tank. This year’s coaches are Dr. Brian Dahmer, City of Brooksville Mayor Blake Bell, Attorney Brian Brijbag, PHSC Provost Dr. Amy Anderson, Hits 106 Marvelous Marvin, Hernando County Board of County Commissioner Brian Hawkins, Hernando County Emergency Management Director Dave DeCarlo, Hernando County Board of County Commissioner Jerry Campbell, City of Brooksville Vice Mayor Christa Tanner, Superintendent of Hernando County Schools John Stratton, Joel Fritton, Hernando County Fire Chief & Public Safety Director Paul Hasenmeier, Hernando County Clerk of Circuit Court & Comptroller Doug Chorvat Jr., Dr. Lauren Dedea, Sheriff Al Nienhuis, and Publix’s Brittany Montmarquet.

“This is the third year I’ve been a celebrity coach,” said Amy Anderson. “I have enjoyed working with United Way for years. This program both gets quality books to our community’s kids and helps caregivers understand the importance of reading to kids. It goes hand-in-hand with my work here at the college and with the Early Learning Coalition. Plus, the event is really fun and Angie is a delight to work with.”

“This tournament provides so many innovative ways for community members and businesses to get involved, all for early literacy,” said Walasek. “Providing such opportunities to either be a supporter the day of, a volunteer, a player, a vendor, a sponsor, a mascot, a food truck, a coach… it really is a family event designed for everyone!”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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