More than 100 people gathered at the National Conference Center on Thursday night to compete in the biggest-ever Not Your Kid’s Spelling Bee, testing their knowledge of spelling and literature and raising money for the Loudoun Literacy Council.
This year, Loudoun United goalkeeper Calle Brown and actors from StageCoach Theatre Company joined Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Howard as a guest emcees. Howard led off the evening quizzing players about the international communities in Loudoun, followed by spelling from international cuisine led by Brown, and finally guessing famous books based on improv performances by Venee Galloway and Don Lorah from StageCoach Theatre.
After three rounds—and some bribery, allowed by the bee rules—Debbie Eggleston took to the stage to lead her team to victory in a sudden-death spelling challenge.
For the first time, the bee had outgrown the Ida Lee Recreation Center and moved to the National Conference Center. Loudoun Literacy Council Executive Director Nikki Daruwala said fundraising also far exceeded expectations. The evening also featured silent auctions for prize packages donated by local businesses, chocolates donated by Chef Santosh Tiptur and The Conche, and centerpiece cakes from Chef Dennis Stanley and Chantel’s Bakery.
The event sponsors included Union Bank, Backflow Technology, BCT-The Community Bank, Commonwealth Emergency Physicians, Major Family Foundation, the Schaufeld family, Lindsay Automotive VW, Makpar, Margaret Brown, NAACP, Omnilert, Projet Aviation, RKN CPAs, Roy Rogers, Salamander Resort, Stryker, TD Bank, Team AGC, Unison, UNO Translations, Volkswagen Group of America, and Wells Fargo.
The nonprofit Loudoun Literacy Council offers programs including basic English classes, GED preparation, individualized tutoring, financial literacy, health literacy, and job site literacy. The council’s Family Literacy Program serves at-risk children and their families in the community through the federally mandated but unfunded Head Start program in the schools, baby book bundles for low-income new parents, story nights and creative art projects at libraries, and other programs.
The council’s evidence-based curriculum meets the demands of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, and for the second year in a row has received the Platinum level GuideStar seal for disclosure and transparency.
About 32,000 Loudoun County residents have indicated they speak English “less than well,” about 30 percent of Loudoun County households speak a language other than English at home, and 61 percent of children in low-income households have no books at all. In 2018, Loudoun Literacy Council helped 330 adults get the literacy they need, served 1,600 children and their families, and distributed more than 12,000 books.