The Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF) held its annual March Madness event Saturday at Graves Mountain Lodge. This was the sixth consecutive year for the fundraiser for the local non-profit that supports public education in Madison County.

The annual event is the primary fundraiser for the MCEF and featured a buffet dinner, silent auction and a chance to watch the NCAA basketball games on multiple big screen TVs. According to Barbara Kres Beach, MCEF President, March Madness has been a major source of funding for the organization’s programs.

“This [March Madness fundraiser] really helps us fund our mission,” she said. “We use the money from this to provide grants for teachers, run Camp Unakite, provide scholarships and support education work in other community organizations like the Literacy Council of Madison County and the library.”

Ren LeVally, an honorary member of the MCEF Board of Directors, agreed that the annual event has been a successful way to support some of the organization’s signature programs.

“MCEF is here to support public education,” he said. “Traditionally, this event has brought in several thousand dollars and that helps to keep programs like Camp Unakite alive. Camp Unakite is a summer STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] educational opportunity for third through eighth graders from Madison. Camp Unakite has had a significant impact on many young people, helping to keep their interest in school. These programs are good for the kids and the community. Quite a few local Madison and Culpeper businesses have sponsored us or donated items for the silent auction.”

This year’s emcee, Barry Penn Hollar, chairman of the school board, gave the opening remarks welcoming guests and thanking sponsors before turning the microphone to MCEF Vice President Bill Hinkes. Hinkes explained the pilot program, sponsored by MCEF, “Everybody Wins, Madison” that is promoting reading by pairing up community volunteers with Waverly Yowell third graders. The adult volunteers read to a third grader once a week and then discuss what they’ve read.

Hinkes introduced Waverly Yowell Assistant Principal Jackie Ovalle and third grade teacher Marty Ward, the two responsible for coordinating this new reading program.

Both Ovalle and Ward emphasized how critical reading skills are for children to succeed in school and explained to the audience that programs such as “Everybody Wins, Madison” can help problem students to get ahead. Ovalle and Ward explained that early intervention can help students achieve their potential.

Beach made closing remarks and actively sought volunteers for the “Everybody Wins, Madison” program for next year.

The Madison County Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that is dedicated to supporting public education in Madison County. The organization operates independently from the Madison County Public Schools and through private donations, provides grants to teachers, scholarships for graduating seniors and adults that have earned their GED, support for Camp Unakite and hosts the Pell Public Speaking Competition. For more information about the MCEF go to www.madisonedfoundation.org.

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