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Leap for Literacy

Event raises about $6K for WEE Books

POSTED: February 26, 2014 4:00 a.m.
David Renner Dawson Community News/

Dawson County Commissioner Gary Pichon takes a running leap into Lake Lanier on Saturday as part of the fourth annual Leap for Literacy.

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With all the talk of ice and snow finally melting away, the obvious thing to do next is go swimming, which is what Dawson County residents gathered to do Saturday.

The fourth annual Leap for Literacy was held Feb. 22 at War Hill Park. The event benefits Dawson County WEE Books, a program developed to put age-appropriate books in the hands of preschool children.

The program is made possible by a partnership with the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy and the WEE Books Community Action Team. There are 70 teams across the state with more than 1,000 volunteers working toward mailing 25,000 Georgia children books each month.

"By the time the children finish the program, graduate preschool and start kindergarten, they are ready to learn," said Ferst Foundation President Betsy Wagenhauser. "This program has been shown to increase rate of success after high school graduation by about 80 percent."

Wagenhauser said that the program is growing.

"Everyone who donates helps a child have a successful life," she said. "Next year, we hope to have up to 50,000 children enrolled across the state."

According to the local chapter of WEE Books, 50 percent of the eligible kids in the county are in the program, but the target is 80 to 100 percent involvement.

This year, the event raised about $6,000 for children's literacy, almost $2,000 more than last year.

While the water wasn't warm by any stretch of the imagination, those that jumped in were eager to do it for a good cause.

"They originally wanted me to come out and just do a toe tap and I said ‘I'm not just going to do a toe tap, if I'm going, I'm going all the way in,'" said Jim King. "Boy, was it cold. It was unbelievable."

Judges Mike Berg, chairman of the Dawson County Commission, Jan Whetstone, owner of Jan's Family Daycare and Lanier Swafford, chief of Dawson County Emergency Services, awarded certificates for classifications such as Best Leaper, Most Creative Team and Most Creative Leaper.

"We had a bigger participation this year," said WEE Books President Lionel Graves. "We had a broader spectrum of jumpers this year and certainly more money and more people. This event just grows every year, so we are expecting to be bigger and better next year."

With this year's event over, the organization isn't sitting back to rest.

"As soon as this one is over, they are already starting to plan for next year," said event emcee Warren King. "It's a big deal. And it gets bigger every year."

But for now, WEE Books is thankful for this year's leapers and spectators.

"We want to thank everyone that participated and spectated," said WEE Books volunteer Jane Graves. "Without you, it wouldn't be half the fun that it is. We will do this again next year, so please come back and support us."


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