I am committed to literacy and giving back, two things my parents instilled in me. I visit schools to read to young students and to assist older students on honing creative writing skills.
From 2006–2008, with help from members of the Penticton Writers and Publishers group, I organized and hosted an Okanagan writing contest for young writers, publishing the writers in an anthology—Gems of the Okanagan. In 2009, this contest emerged as the British Columbia Youth Writers Camp (see below).
I have been most proud of my assistance to the following young people:
- Endrene Shepherd, whom I first met when she was only 11 years old after she won a drawing contest of a scene for a Christmas Card. Endrene is now an author, illustrator and full time artist.
- I met Celeste Catena, as a judge for the Kelowna Spelling Bee contest, she was the youngest speller at age 7. Although she did not win, Celeste was third runner up and after I discovered her love of words and writing, I helped her publish her first novel, Undefeated.
- The grade 3/4 students at the Penticton Christian School created a book with illustrations about pioneer life in the 1900s in the Okanagan. I met with their teacher and helped them publish their first book.
- Hip Hop Instructor Jake Evans wanted to publish his first book to teach young students to get up and move. I assisted with his first publication, Feelin’ The Beat.
- Amanda Lewis was in grade 4 when I had an opportunity to read some of her creative stories and poems, while visiting her class. As an adult, Amanda has become a spokesperson for the Agur Lake Camp, which is open for families caring for members with disabilities and life limiting conditions. I encouraged and helped Amanda publish her collections of poems in her first book titled, One, which she used as a fundraiser for Agur Lake Camp.
- I worked with a young grade seven student, Linzi Sheldon, who attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Columbia University, in New York, before moving on from creative writing to becoming a Saturday and Sunday Morning News Anchor at CBS affiliate station KIRO in Seattle. Linzi also anchors the evening news and reports on news stories
And, as our way of giving back, my husband and I give six annual scholarships to young Okanagan students attending Okanagan College and University of British Columbia Okanagan, as well as being co-chairs, helping to fund-raise for building the new Centre of Excellence at Okanagan College in Penticton.
BC Youth Writers Camp, 2009 to 2016
Beginning in 2009, I worked with volunteers from the Penticton Writers and Publishers group to create and co-ordinate the annual British Columbia Youth Writers Camp. Any 8–18 year old creative writers from across Canada and United States could attend a one-week camp in July to learn from professional presenters of the writing and publishing industry.
Raise a Reader Programs South Okanagan, 2007 to 2016
Thanks to the Penticton Herald Newspaper, for several years I was able to organize and run Raise a Reader (RAR) of the South Okanagan. This unique one-of-a-kind program invited authors and their books into schools. RAR purchased a copy of the author’s book to gift to every student.
Raise a Reader (RAR) was involved in several activities, including:
- Meeting Shirley Bond, British Columbia Minister of Education 2005–2009;
- RAR Books For Treats at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre, gifting a free book to trick-or-treaters on Halloween Night;
- Books to kids on Literacy Day in the Mall;
- RAR and the Penticton/Okanagan Rotary Club, with the Penticton Vees hockey team gift books to children along the Peach Festival Parade route;
- RAR Baby Books gifted a board book, a sibling book and a bag to new moms;
- RAR supported the British Columbia Youth Writers Camp through the RAR Keynote Speaker event, gifting the speaker’s work to each camper.