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Community gathers at spelling bee

SYCAMORE – The “z” in gazpacho was going to stump someone, and Steven Roman was just glad it was not him.

Roman was one of more than 100 people who came together Thursday to support local literacy programs during the 13th annual DeKalb County Community Spelling Bee at the St. Mary’s Activity Center in Sycamore.

Roman represented the three-person DeKalb Public Library team in the field of 16 squads and said he was impressed with the quality of spellers in the tournament and the community support for a good cause.

“This is just a really nice thing for both DeKalb and Sycamore,” he said. “It’s a fun, friendly competition.”

The annual spelling bee pits three-person teams of all ages, from high school students to senior citizens, against each other for spelling supremacy in an event that supports the DeKalb-Sycamore Altrusa Foundation, the Daily Chronicle Education in Newspapers program and Altrusa’s endowment fund with the DeKalb County Community Foundation.

The event also was part of DeKalb Public Library’s monthlong Big Read event, which is focused on the works of Mark Twain.

Ellen Anderson, a member of Altrusa, said the event serves as the organization’s largest annual fundraiser, and she was hopeful the group would raise the roughly $10,000 it made last year.

Bolstering the fundraising effort was a slew of new sponsors that donated products and services for the raffle. Anderson said new sponsors included Lehan Drugs, Hy-Vee, Lincoln Inn and Pampered Chef.

“We’re selling lots of [raffle] tickets and it all adds up,” she said. “We’re so grateful to all our sponsors.”

Spellers on the 16 teams were not the only ones under pressure Thursday as “cheerleaders” who came out in the greatest numbers to support their team would help their team earn a pizza party.

Deanna Hacker, who came out to support the Safe Passage team, said she was happy to come back to the event after participating as a speller in last year’s competition.

“It’s definitely worthwhile,” she said. “How could [literacy] not be important? You can’t do much if you can’t read.”

Dan Templin, executive director of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, said the spelling bee has become one of his favorite fundraisers to attend and one of the most important for Altrusa’s endowment fund.

“I think it’s a unique community event that sends a good message about the importance of literacy,” he said. “I think the cool thing is to see how it brings all ages together.”

DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen served as one of the judges for the competition and said the event is an example of the caring communities in DeKalb and Sycamore. It also was an example of how smart the adults and high school students in the area are.

“I didn’t even know what some of the words meant,” Povlsen said laughing. “I’ve been very impressed.”

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