RIF 2011 Annual Gift of Reading Gala

Editorial credit: Caroline Coppel

There was more to Reading is Fundamental’s annual fundraising gala – held at the Mayflower Renaissance Wednesday – than the usual dinner, drinks and polite conversation. True to its theme, “There’s More to the Story,” the event was a celebration of the organization’s commitment to children’s literacy.


The centerpiece for the cocktail reception was a display of books, and much of the artwork available for silent auction was from children’s illustrations. Guests were even encouraged to bring out their inner children – the party favors were giant, rainbow colored lollipops and there was a booth set up where they could take photos dressed in quirky costumes.


Although RIF recently lost its federal funding, the gala was a testament to the organization’s diverse network of supporters. There was not an empty seat at the awards dinner as RIF honored its three volunteers of the year and UGI Utilities, one of its corporate sponsors.


The three volunteers – Suzanne Fillmore, Patricia Gillespie and Mary Comfort Stevens – work with RIF at the local level. A short video illustrated their passion for education, and for what they do.


“You can either pay for schools or pay for jails,” said Stevens in the video.


One of the most genuine moments of the night came from the featured speaker, Dr. Valoria Baylor. The crowd gave her a standing ovation when she announced her retirement from her job as principal of an elementary school in Ward 8.  In her speech, she stressed the importance of RIF’s role at the school.


“It’s one thing to borrow a book from the library, and the students do,” she said. “It’s another to give a child a book to take home, and have them say, ‘This is mine.’”


Every year, the gala ends with a children’s story, and this year Baylor led the crowd in a reading of “The Dot.” Here, her years of working in education shone through.


“Isn’t that funny, b–,“ she stopped and laughed. “I almost called you boys and girls.”

Photo credit: Reading Is Fundamental

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