Local writer Dan Whittle is preparing for his appearance in the seventh annual Read To Succeed Celebrity Spelling Bee in some unusual ways.
Contestants compete in the annual Celebrity Spelling Bee held Nov. 15, 2011, at Patterson Park Community Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Hudgins)
Instead of memorizing the dictionary or having his wife Pat quiz him with flash cards, he is working on his physique.
“I’m swimming three times a week, eating fish and remembering not to sweat in public,” The Murfreesboro Post columnist admitted.
“I perspired a lot when losing a grade school spelling contest to pretty little Rosemary Hopper, the ‘fox’ of the fourth grade,” Whittle reminisced. “As a consolation for coming in second, I got to be her escort later in the school fall carnival King and Queen event. So I’ll be happy, if I just come in second again.”
But he’s not suggesting he’d like to go on a date with his fellow contestants.
Whittle does wish the competition well when they take the stage Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. at Patterson Park Community Center.
“I don’t wish anything harsh on them, such as the ‘back yard trots,’” he said, pointing out that would be the easiest way for him to come out on top, other than using a spell-check device. Then again, he’s not so good with computers.
One thing Whittle is good with is reading and writing. In fact he’s almost a published author and would like to encourage more people to read so they might pick up his books when they are finally released.
This is why Whittle agreed to spelling in public when his wife signed him up for the spelling bee.
“I wish my wife had not signed me up for this opportunity to embarrass myself in front of thousands of folks,” Whittle said nervously. He added his book should be out later this year.
The embarrassing event is local literacy nonprofit Read To Succeed’s only fundraiser throughout the year, raising essential funds for an adult tutoring program, in-school family literacy programs, ESL classes, and dozens of other events in the community aimed at promoting reading.
Read To Succeed Executive Director Lisa Mitchell said when Read To Succeed decided to do an annual fundraiser six years ago, they wanted it to be something that supported the organization’s mission.
“When we came up with the idea for the Bee,” Mitchell said, “we struck gold. Not only do we raise funds for Read To Succeed, we get to put our mission in the hands of some of our community’s most notable residents. We always said: If the mayor is willing to risk public humiliation and spell in public, then literacy must be important. And, to top it all off, we get to spend a fun, laid-back, often hilarious night with our supporters, board and council members, all rallying around our mission.”
Two Celebrity Bee Champion Sponsors have already stepped up to support literacy at the $5,000 level: local law firm Kious, Rodgers, Barger, & Holder and Nissan North America Inc.
Tickets to the Bee and the Celebrity “Buzz” Dinner by Macaroni Grill, which starts at 6 p.m., are $50 per person and can be purchased online at celebritybee.readtosucceed.org or by mailing a check to Read To Succeed, P.O. Box 12161, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37129.
Donations of any size are encouraged in honor of any of the spellers, even if you cannot attend the Celebrity Spelling Bee. A $20 donation, Mitchell said, can help purchase up to five new books for students in Read To Succeed’s family literacy programs.
“Everyone wants a strong community and improved literacy improves all of your lives,” Mitchell said. “By supporting Read To Succeed through the Celebrity Bee, you are helping expand programs and helping us reach more people who need our services.”