Portland, OR. Over 300 supporters joined SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) for the organization’s Alphabet Ball fundraiser at The Nines. The event on February 8th raised $502,000 which will help support over 11,000 children in the SMART program this year with one-on-one reading support and books to keep. Alphabet Ball guests David and Thuy Blair and Triston and Jazmine Dallas joined SMART Board Member Joe Mueller and his wife, Holly Mueller.

SMART volunteers Kent Lewis, Michelle Cheek, SMART volunteer Erica Lewis, Renata Morris, SMART Board member Adam Morris, Vanessa Dichari, and Tabitha Lovett enjoying the cocktail reception.

Generous guests raise their paddles to support SMART.

Guests celebrated winning the Book Pack Frenzy, a competition to donate the most book packs for SMART students, with the gift of Carson Ellis’ book, Home. From front left, clockwise: Sarah Gates, Brenda Fox, Corbett Fox, Stephanie Gates, Stephen Dudley, Bud Borja, Nancy Dudley, SMART program alum Marissa Paulson, and Phoebe Peterson.

SMART Executive Director, Chris Otis (far left), and SMART Board Chair, Terri Browning (far right), celebrate SMART’s regional and statewide Volunteers of the Year. Volunteers from left: Judith Pearson; North Coast Area winner; Heidi Gaither, South Central Area winner; Julie Ehlers, Metro Area winner; Karen Brkich, Rogue Valley Area and Statewide winner; and Jim Linker, Central Area winner.

From SMART:

Learning to read is one of the most important steps in a child’s life, laying the vital foundation for future knowledge and education. Research proves that shared book reading and access to books in the home during a child’s first, formative years are the strongest predictors of early literacy skills. At SMART, this is what we do.

Founded in 1992, SMART’s proven model engages community volunteers across Oregon to read one-on-one with PreK through third-grade children for one hour per week during the school year. SMART volunteers model reading aloud and ignite a love of reading in children, helping build reading skills, motivation and self-confidence. SMART students also receive up to 14 new books to take home and keep each year.

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