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Joining me at the Literacy Project Foundation "What Dreams Are Made Of" fundraiser were two of the honorees - Corporate Partner of the Year, Doug Freeman (left), and Distinguished Humanitarian Ed Arnold

Joining me at the Literacy Project Foundation’s “What Dreams Are Made Of” fundraiser were two of the honorees – Corporate Partner of the Year, Doug Freeman (left), and Distinguished Humanitarian, Ed Arnold

The Literacy Project Foundation’s “What Dreams Are Made Of” luncheon at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach touched my heart. As a lifelong reader – I worked in my hometown’s public library all through high school – I know what joy reading brings and how important it is that young children learn to read to bring that joy to them.

The Literacy Project Foundation, launched in 2009, was founded by Sue Tucker, who has done an amazing job working to bring reading skill programs to at-risk and disadvantaged youth. The reading program helps more than 3,000 students gain basic reading skills through a phonetic reading program called, “The New Phonics Game,” which was co-developed by the Regents of the University of California. Tucker has also assembled a powerful board of directors, as well as impressive philanthropic support for the cause. Founding Board Chair Doug Freeman calls her “a force of nature!”

This particular fundraiser, the fourth annual, attracted 275 guests to celebrate LPF’s success and to honor supporters and highlight five student graduates. PBS-SoCal’s Maria Hall-Brown added her charm as emcee, introducing each of the honorees and LPF graduates. Ed Arnold, broadcast veteran of radio, television sports and news, was presented LPF’s Distinguished Humanitarian award for his many years of philanthropic work in the county. “His charity involvement is legion,” said presenter Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, representing South Coast Plaza and Festival of Children. Arnold remarked, “When I found the library as a kid, I fell in love.” Regarding LPF, he said, “To watch the program and see the reaction of the kids is remarkable.” Doug Freeman, who I mentioned earlier, continues as LPF’s board chair and is Senior Managing Director of First Foundation. He received LPF’s Corporate Partner of the Year award. John Evans, Regional Managing Director of Orange County Wealth Management, presented the award, saying, “Doug exemplifies the true essence of corporate philanthropy.”

Christina Romney, a teacher at Dr. Peter Marshall Elementary in Magnolia School District in Anaheim, received LPF’s Teacher of the Year honor for her passion for the program as a Master Teacher. Former California Secretary of Education Marion Bergeson presented the award to Romney. Barbara Shangraw was named “Dream Maker” by the LPF staff, as an individual who works tirelessly behind the scenes as a volunteer to provide youth the gift of literacy. Aaron Kushner, Orange County Register Publisher and CEO of Freedom Communications, presented the award to Shangraw.

Dr. Sue Johnson, Superintendent of Savanna School District, lauded LPF’s program, saying there was a significant increase of state test scores in reading in her district due to its contribution. Johnson also presented a Congressional Certificate for “Exemplary Leadership and Dedication to a Great Cause” to LPF’s Director of Programming, Kimberly Vig. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait was on hand to present a proclamation to Literacy Project for its continuous work in the Anaheim School District for which LPF has raised more than $350,000 to service 2,400 children with increased reading skills.

The five students, who recently completed LPF’s program, were accompanied by their role models, adults who represent the career each of the students dream to have in the future. The role models spoke about their successful careers followed by the students, who spoke about their dream careers, accompanied by delightful illustrations of their perfect job. Newport Beach Police Department Police Officer Todd Vinson represented a police officer for Emmanuel; Newport Beach Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Kitch represented a firefighter for Kevin; Joti Dulay, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, represented a nurse for Brittany (and presented her with a stethoscope!); fashion designer Annie Foster Freedland was NaShonda’s mentor; and Dr. Dixie Arnold, Associate Professor and Chair of Liberal Studies at Vanguard University, represented a teacher for Joshua. It was obvious listening to these wonderful children talk about their futures that the gift of literacy was the first step to helping them achieve their personal dreams. The kids touched everyone’s heart!

Among those supporting the effort was Title Sponsor Tourbillon/Omega, represented by Omega US Brand President Gregory Swift and South Coast Plaza’s Tourbillion Boutique General Manager Aimee Richter. Other major sponsors included the Orange County Register, First Foundation, JoAnn Albers (event co-chair with Tucker), Owl Foundation, Argyros Foundation, Frome Family Foundation, Zotovich Estate Vineyard and Winery, Angels Baseball, Ronna and Bill Shipman, Emerald Foundation, Barbara and Mike Shangraw, Rancho Las Lomas, Janie Merkle, Digital Eye Media, and B. Scene Advertising Agency. Disney Resorts, represented by Jill Bolton, gave each of the student speakers four passes to Disneyland and a brand new Disney book. Tucker told me that Disney Resorts presents each LPF student a Disney book upon graduation.

Together with silent and live auction monies raised, $70,000 was netted to help continue the foundation’s important work. That figure is double last year’s net, so let’s hope it doubles or triples next year’s effort. Knowing Sue, that’s a given!

I’ll close with Doug Freeman’s response when receiving his award, “If I can change the life of one of those children, it’s a good day!” ‘Nuff said!

Aside: I loved the quote from Margaret Fuller on the event invitation that said, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” What a powerful statement! Here’s to reading!!

Selected photos, courtesy of the Literacy Project Foundation