First Posted: 2/4/2009
LUMBERTON Ginger Gavaghan is a big Fayetteville FireAntz fan.
So, when the West Lumberton second grade teacher attended a game recently and saw that the FireAntz were promoting youth reading with a program called Blades for Grades, Gavaghan naturally connected the dots.
“I’ve been going to FireAntz games for years” said Gavaghan. “And I want to increase the children’s interest about reading. So when I found out about the program, it fell right into what I’ve been trying to do with my students.”
So along with Vice President of Communications Jason Fleming, the FireAntz sent a pair of defenders co-captain Craig Geerlinks and rookie Matt Ruberto to West Lumberton Elementary on Tuesday.
The three men spoke about the importance of reading and education in front of about 120 children and teachers for 30 minutes.
After speaking about the Blades for Grades program, they participated in an impromptu, light-hearted question-and-answer segment.
“Ultimately what we did today is promote reading among the youth,” said Fleming. “We want them to elevate their reading comprehension goals, and what better way to do that than to offer a reward?”
Blades for Grades is an incentive-based program that aims to cultivate and advance an interest in reading among elementary students in the greater Cumberland and Robeson County areas.
The students that achieve higher scores between the time of the appearance and a particular game will receive a free ticket — courtesy of Lumbee River EMC — to the FireAntz’ last home game against the Knoxville Ice Bears on Mar. 20.
“When you do these types of things with the kids, it makes you appreciate it a little bit more,” said Geerlinks. “Older crowds will tune you out sometimes, but the kids really buy into it. Even though you might not think you’re a big deal, the kids look up to you, so to come here and talk to them is a good thing to do.”
Added Fleming: “We’re trying to use the FireAntz organization and have the players come out and talk to the kids about how important reading is.”
The FireAntz have 10 other dates scheduled, including appearances at Rockfish, Sandy Grove, Long Branch and Morganton Road Elementary schools.
The sessions can vary between players reading a book to a class and speaking to around 460 students at once.
Fleming, who called the experience “humbling”, says the program is working with around 1,000 kids at the elementary school level.
“If we’ve affected one kid, if we get one boy or girl to understand the importance of reading not only as a child but as an adult then we’ve done our job,” he said.