EDITOR'S NOTE: Our mission is to promote fitness throughout our community, and we do it by reaching young and old alike with the message to get moving. But there is also the need for fitness as citizens, and the Ozark Foothills Literacy Project teaches young and old alike to get reading, helping them become fully involved and informed in our democracy. Nicole Stroud shares the power of a single syllable in making that hope a reality.

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Check out our archive for previous travels On the Road, and remember we invite you to share your own story, cause or advice with our members.

On the Road to "Yes"


By NICOLE STROUD
Director, Ozark Foothills Literacy Project

This is a story of how a single word can turn an idea into reality. In 2012, this three-letter word brought a community together to support literacy, healthy kids, and just plain fun. Without the word "yes," Batesville's first Kids Triathlon for Literacy would never have happened.

In February of 2012, I had a conversation that went like this:

Andrea Hammack: "Hey Nicole, I have an idea for a Literacy Project fundraiser. I've heard parents talk about how much fun kids triathlons are. Interested?"

Nicole: "Great idea, Mrs. Board President! What would it take to put on an event like this?"

Andrea: "Hmm... We'd need a pool, and some volunteers with stopwatches. That sounds pretty easy, right?"

Nicole: "It sure does! Yes! Let's go for it!"

Fast forward about two months. I was beginning to realize our little idea was going to be more challenging than anticipated. But then, three people I'd never met before said, "Yes!" they would help — Jeff Owens, Batesville City Parks Director and triathlete; Bruce Oakley, runner extraordinaire; and Wes Obrigewitsch, avid biker and owner of MorningSide Coffee House.

A runner leaves the bicycle transition area in the 2012 Bad Boy Kids Triathlon for Literacy

April 2012, MorningSide, first volunteer meeting:

Me: "So, do you think the kids should swim last, since it's going to be hot?"

Jeff: "Um, it's ALWAYS swim-bike-run."

Me: "How many volunteers will we need to help time the race? We time each leg of the race separately, right?"

Jeff/Bruce/Wes: "Um, have you considered hiring a professional race timing crew?"

Bruce: "Even if you hire timers, you're going to need quite a few volunteers."

Some quick calculations reveal that we'll need fifty plus volunteers, and over $1,000 to hire race timers.

Me: "!!! Can we really make this happen?"

Everyone: "YES!"

Jeff, Bruce and Wes were the best volunteers a novice race director could have asked for. They made quick work of logistics and never questioned my sanity. Luckily for me, these guys were full of yeses! It started to feel like the hard part was out of the way. Little did I realize how many more yeses we would need to pull this thing off.

Lyon College said yes, we could use their campus, and yes, they would be a major sponsor of the event.

Twenty-five more yeses came from local businesses and individual sponsors who underwrote the event. Bad Boy Mowers took a chance on us and said yes to being the title sponsor of our inaugural race.

Preparing for the event required lots of yeses from board members and family members. It took a really big yes from my husband, Ben, who spent the evening of July 4, 2012, putting fliers on hundreds of cars at Riverfront Park in 100 degree weather.

There were at least 50 yeses from race volunteers. Literacy Project tutors, students and AmeriCorps members, Kiwanis and Circle K members, White River Roadrunners and more all pitched in.

Most important, it took yeses from dozens of kids and their parents to really make Batesville's first kids triathlon a success.

Because so many people said yes, and because 70-plus kids swam, biked and ran on a warm July day, $3,000 was raised for the Ozark Foothills Literacy Project.

Earlier this month, the 2nd Annual Bad Boy Kids Triathlon for Literacy brought in 80-plus kids from multiple states and many cities throughout Arkansas. There were serious competitors, and there were kids who didn't know it was a race. Both types of kids and lots in between had a great time and challenged themselves. Their efforts this year raised $4,500 for the Literacy Project.

For the Ozark Foothills Literacy Project's adult students, all these yeses mean they can continue learning to read or learning English. The yeses have supplied them with textbooks, reading materials, and teachers. Literacy empowers people with the skills to become fully active members of the community — members of the community who in turn say, "YES!"