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Supporting Austin Sunshine Camp

By Fundraising, General, What's Happening

This summer, Book Drive for Kids Austin is serving 500 foster care and at-risk youth in the Austin area by giving them free books.  Children in foster care typically lack access to books, with parents not being able to take them to the library or buy them books for summer reading. To bridge this gap, we host free book fairs at several summer events, ensuring that they have access to a good book and hopefully prevent the summer slide.

Last week, we kicked off our summer efforts by hosting a free outdoor book fair at Zilker Park during the Austin Sunshine Camp kickoff event. We braved the Texas heat and distributed 173 brand-new books to campers! Each camper was able to select a book to bring to camp and read during quiet time that can spark a love for reading that will last a lifetime.

Upcoming Summer Events

The Austin Chapter of Book Drive for Kids has three more exciting events planned this summer:

These events are expected to serve 500 students, offering the gift of literacy and the joy of owning their very own book. Books open doors to new worlds, foster a love for reading, and contribute to the educational success of foster care and at-risk youth.

How You Can Help

If you have a heart for foster care youth and believe in the power of books, we invite you to support our cause. Here’s how you can make a difference:

  • Donate Books: Visit our Amazon Wish List and purchase a book. Each book bought will go directly to a child in need, providing them with the tools to succeed academically.
  • Monetary Donations: Contributions of any size are greatly appreciated and go a long way in helping us reach more children. Your donation will be used to purchase new books and cover the costs of our free book fairs.

Your generosity can make a lasting impact on a child’s life. With your help, we can continue to bring the joy of reading to children who need it most. Thank you for supporting our mission and making a difference in the lives of foster care youth.

2nd Annual Adult Spelling Bee

By Fundraising, Spelling Bee

Local Nonprofit Book Drive for Kids Raises $35,000 From 2nd Annual Adult Spelling Bee

By Steve Gamel

Book Drive for Kids’ signature Adult Spelling Bee event is here to stay. If last year’s inaugural event wasn’t convincing enough for you, this year’s follow-up on April 5 surely sealed the deal after raising a staggering $35,000 – an increase of nearly 152% from last year’s total – to support future book fairs and other initiatives aimed at furthering the nonprofit’s mission of getting books into the hearts and homes of needy children.

This year’s event was held at Circle R Ranch in Flower Mound to account for more teams and a lighthearted audience of 200 people. Mayor Derek France was the emcee, and eight teams battled it out for the top prize. Independent Financial was recognized with the Circle of Commitment award because of their on-going support since the first Denton county free book fairs in 2018.

“We are overwhelmed and grateful for the tremendous support from our hometown supporters – not only for the monetary gifts but for the enthusiasm and encouragement we have received to keep working to get good books into the hearts and homes of the next generation,” Book Drive for Kids executive director Michelle Cook said. “With the continual population growth in Denton County, the need to support low-income families and the educators who serve them is on the rise. We definitely need volunteers.”

Book Drive for Kids has donated over 175,000 books to nearly 100,000 students at roughly 100 events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Thanks to active volunteers and support, donations, grants from countless individuals and entities, and the annual spelling bee, their reach extends to places like Austin, Houston, and South Texas.

Who Won the Adult Spelling Bee?

This year’s event pitted eight sponsored teams of three against each other for the championship and other top honors. There were two flights, with the winning team from each flight squaring off in the title round later that evening, and three judges (Glenda Simons, Ross Powell, and Savanna Powell) to ensure every word was pronounced and spelled correctly. 

When the dust settled, The Word Smiffs (Jonathan Munoz, Chelsea Mooneyhan, and Marco Rodriguez, Sr.) pulled out the victory – avenging a tough first-round exit in last year’s event.

Team sponsors included Puro Clean of Flower Mound, BbK Services 556, the Cross Timbers Rotary (two teams), ResponsiveEd (two teams), Independent Financial, and Mantiki Solutions. In addition to sponsoring spelling bee teams, the Cross Timbers Rotary helped process book donations after the event.

“The Adult Spelling Bee is just good, family-friendly fun to support a good cause,” Marco Rodriguez, Sr. said. “This is a fun time all around for friends, family, and competitors. We enjoyed watching the other teams play and act the part of their team name and costumes, and it was a sweet redemption for us. … We would have had fun whether we won or not, but winning is a lot of fun. We will be competing again next year.”

He added, “Come out and cheer on a team, spell, and support Book Drive for Kids.”

Look Out for Information on Next Year’s Bee!

If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year’s Adult Spelling Bee, the good news is that there is always next year. As usual, the stakes next year will be higher, the laughs will be side-splitting, and the opportunity to get more books into kids’ hands in Denton County and beyond will be plentiful. 

Visit bookdriveforkids.com for more information, including ways to donate, volunteer, or participate in next year’s adult spelling bee. 

Duck Derby & Rhythm at the River Walk

By Fundraising

Duck Derby & Rhythm at the River Walk

For those of you in North Texas, come enjoy a fun-filled day of food trucks, local vendors, and music at Rhythms at the River Walk. presented by the Cross Timbers Rotary. The highlight of this event is the Duck Derby, where thousands of rubber duckies race to win $2,500, $2,000, $1,000 or seven other prizes. YOU can win that prize when you adopt a duck for $5. When you use the Book Drive for Kids link, we automatically get $1 of your adoption fee. The other funds are donated to Denton county charities (hopefully Book Drive for Kids will be in that batch of grants) next Spring.

Adopt your duck now!

NTX Giving Day

By Fundraising

NTX Giving Day

Exciting news!!! In celebration of North Texas Giving Day, your donation will be matched 1:1 thanks to a generous community partner, up to $15,000. North Texas Giving Day, September 21, is the day when North Texans join in supporting the non-profits who do such amazing work in North Texas. When we meet this giving goal of $15,000 it will be matched equaling a gift of $30,000 so we can expand our free book fairs to additional schools in Dallas and Tarrant counties. Double the support equals double the impact! Early giving opened September 1st! Give a book. Change a life.

This Is Why I Will Happily Compete in Book Drive for Kids’ Adult Spelling Bee Every Year

By Fundraising, Spelling Bee

This Is Why I Will Happily Compete in Book Drive for Kids’ Adult Spelling Bee Every Year

By Steve Gamel

I must admit I was a little apprehensive when Book Drive for Kids’ Co-Founder and Executive Director Michelle Cook asked me if I’d compete in their inaugural Adult Spelling Bee on March 4. Don’t get me wrong; I am all about stepping up for a local charity — especially if that charity’s mission is to get books into the hearts and homes of needy children. 

Not to mention, I’m a writer and editor by trade! Independent reading … writing … grammar … spelling … literacy … these are my JAM.

But competing in a spelling bee?! Standing in front of all those people — most of whom know what I do for a living? That’s pressure — even for an Uber-competitive person like me. I don’t think I’ve been in a spelling bee since the 3rd grade, but like most people I know in this community, it’s really hard to say “no” to Michelle. She and fellow BDK co-founder Nicol Klingenstein are the sweetest people. They’re in this for the right reasons, and as I learned about their history, mission, and plans for the future, saying “yes” was a no-brainer. 

Full disclosure: My team didn’t win. 

Also, full disclosure: I spelled all my words correctly!

But I’m here to tell you that I will absolutely do this again next year — and the year after that, and the year after that, and so on.

Why? Because it doesn’t matter who wins an adult spelling bee. Sure, it was fun getting up there and watching everyone (myself included) spell words like acquiesce, inexhaustible, amphibious, cinnamon, archaic, remembrance, etc., off the top of their heads. But the real winners from an event like that are the kids. The event hauled in $13,900, including a $3,500 grant from the Elk’s National Foundation. That’s huge, as the money raised will support future free book fairs and other initiatives. The organization has interacted with nearly 20,000 children at free book fairs this school year alone. Since 2017, they’ve donated over 150,000 books to nearly 66,000 students at nearly 100 events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and their reach extends to places like Austin, Houston, and South Texas.

I could tell immediately that all 120 people in attendance that night at Elk’s Lodge in Grapevine believed in what Book Drive for Kids was doing. And just like me, they’ll be back — and they’ll bring more friends, too.

So, Who Won the Adult Spelling Bee?

The adult spelling bee pitted six sponsored teams of three against each other for the championship and other top honors. There were two flights, with the winning team from each flight squaring off in the title round later that evening. 

When the dust settled, Spelling Bee Bee 556 (Lois Kim, Mike Kirkpatrick, and Jessie Nair) won the event after narrowly edging the Hip-Bees (Lanette Frost, Melissa Cheshier, and Ashley Williams) in the finals. Third place went to Highway to Spell (Steve Gamel, Crystal Foster, and Buddy Bonner), which won the “Most Fans” award. The Gatsby Grammarians (Sydney Stauffer, Brad Deitzen, and Äugenae Davenport) won the “Best Costume” award.

Team sponsors included BbK Services 556, Regions Bank, Mantiki Solutions, LLC, ResponsiveEd, Swag Angels, and Puro Clean.

Look Out for Information on Next Year’s Event!

If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year, the good news is that Book Drive for Kids is already working on a follow-up event for next year.  I even joked with Michelle at a meeting a few days later that she may need to find a bigger venue in the years to come — to which we both said, “That would be a great problem to have.” As usual, the stakes next year will be higher, the laughs will be side-splitting, and the opportunity to get more books into kids’ hands in Denton County and beyond will be plentiful.

Thanks for reading!

For more information, including ways to donate, volunteer, or participate in next year’s adult spelling bee, visit bookdriveforkids.com.