Way to Bee
● By Sandie Tillery
The Back to School Project’s Ultimate Spelling Bee Challenge
The first Ultimate Spelling Bee Challenge, put on by the Back to School Project and sponsored by California Walnut Company, will launch at 5 pm March 22 in Red Bluff High School’s gymnasium. The fast-paced, high-energy fundraising event is the brainchild of Kim Berry, who feels that every child should begin the school year with “pride, dignity and a sense of self-worth.”
Thinking big, thinking creatively and thinking of all the children who will benefit from the generosity of their community, Berry has headed the Back to School Project of Tehama County for 10 years. The program provides more than 300 children with items necessary to begin the school year feeling good about themselves. It has grown since 2004, when 18 children in Red Bluff benefited, to a countywide program.
When trying to find a fundraiser that would help support the project, Berry was inspired when she read about a community spelling bee for Kalamazoo Public Library in Michigan. Berry and her team borrowed the idea, and over the past two years, they have tweaked it to suit their specific mission. They now have planned a unique event that not only raises funds to help purchase clothes, shoes and backpacks for needy children, but promotes the joy of learning through a community spelling bee that pits local officials and business leaders against local students.
Jennifer Scarborough, news anchor from KRCR Channel 7 News, has agreed to serve as Spell Master, delivering the rapid-fire spelling words for each contestant. Greg Stevens, publisher of the Red Bluff Daily News, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Other officials will judge spelling accuracy and tally points earned by each team.
Twelve teams — six adult and six student — will compete for bragging rights, recognition in the new Ultimate Spelling Bee Challenge Wall of Fame in the Tehama County Department of Education office and a variety of team prizes. The competition promises to be hard fought. Teams have been studying their word lists in preparation. Berry commented to Paul Nanfito, Red Bluff Chief of Police, when she enlisted him for the law enforcement team that she expected the students to study but didn’t think the adults would have the time. His response: “Oh, no; I want to win!”
Adult teams include professionals from law enforcement, education, health care, elected office, nonprofits, education and civil service. Student teams represent Red Bluff High School, Sacred Heart Parish School, Mercy High School, Vista Middle School, Berrendos Middle School and Corning High School.
California Walnut Company is the event underwriter for this inaugural year. Each team table has been sponsored by a local business and each letter of the alphabet has been sold to individual sponsors. The event includes a silent auction and raffle. Admission is $10 for adults and $3 for students.
All monies raised will purchase $100 gift cards from Walmart for each child selected for the Back to School Project this year. In past years, applicants have exceeded funds available. This event will add needed dollars to what comes in from two other fundraisers in June and October. Berry says, “This is a feel-good project. For some students, these will be the only new items they will get all year long.” Her passion springs from past experience when as a young single mom, someone anonymously gave her $100 to buy school supplies for her four daughters. She now tirelessly pays it forward.