By: Shelley Shekell—
Muncie, IN – United Way of Delaware County held its annual volunteer event, Day of Action, on Sept. 1, 2016. For this year’s event, United Way, Meridian Health Services and Muncie Community Schools brought “Professor Watermelon” into the classroom to educate third and fourth graders about Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley.
Professor Watermelon is the persona of Chadwick Gillenwater, children’s book author and James Whitcomb Riley reenactor. Gillenwater’s presentation connected modern day stories the children knew to Riley’s most popular poems “Little Orphant Annie” and “Raggedy Man.” The children were riveted by the poems and stories Gillenwater shared.
Thanks to support from United Way and sponsorship from Meridian Health Services, all third and fourth grade students at Grissom and South View Elementary Schools received a signed copy of Professor Watermelon’s newest children’s book, George and the Goblin Hole.
“Almost 300 children went home with a new book they were super excited to read thanks to Meridian Health Services’ sponsorship,” said United Way President & CEO, Jenni Marsh. “To generate that kind of energy around reading—that’s exactly why United Way and Meridian partnered together to make that happen. That was our organizations’ special Day of Action project.”
Chadwick Gillenwater—more commonly referred to by his stage name, Professor Watermelon—has devoted his life to inspiring teachers, parents, and children to create a literacy culture in the classroom and at home.
“I’ve devoted my career to children in hopes that I can inspire them to find joy and inspiration in reading and writing,” Gillenwater said. “I love seeing the boost in self-confidence when children write something that they are proud of. I also love seeing children get lost in the pages of a book, and if it is my book they’ve found refuge in, then I know my life’s purpose is meaningful. That makes me happy.”
Over 300 children and faculty at Grissom and South View Elementary Schools participated in Professor Watermelon’s performance.
“We would like to thank United Way of Delaware County and Meridian Health Services for offering our students the opportunity to be a part of such a dynamic and educational program. Both our students and staff thoroughly enjoyed the experience with Professor Watermelon,” said Ana Pichardo, Director of Communications, Muncie Community Schools.
For more information on United Way’s emphasis on childhood education or its involvement with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, please contact United Way Director of Impact, Jim Flatford, at 765-288-5586 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About United Way of Delaware County
United Way of Delaware County, Indiana engages the community to improve lives by focusing resources on health, education, and financial stability. It also works to create lasting change in community conditions. As the sponsoring organization for the community’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading, United Way is working to help children read at or above grade level by the end of their third grade year. It is during this pivotal point that children transition from learning how to read, into readers who learn from what they have read. United Way is partnering with schools to help at-risk readers meet this important benchmark. United Way has convened a coalition to identify gaps in services that are preventing children’s success with reading. Together, the coalition is finding ways to bridge those gaps and keep our community’s children on target for success in school and in life. Learn more at invitedtoliveunited.org.