Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco spent Monday afternoon at E.D. Walker Middle School with three of his younger teammates, kicking off the Stick With Reading Rally. The rally signifies the beginning of this season’s eight-week long Stick With Reading Program.
Turco, the program’s spokesman since the 2001-02 season, and his teammates B.J. Crombeen, Mark Fistric
and Toby Petersen
, spent the afternoon, along with in-game arena host Celena Rae, at the school’s auditorium, talking to kids about the benefits and importance of reading. They were met by more than 250 enthusiastic students, cheering and screaming for their hometown sports stars.
“It’s unreal the excitement that the kids bring,” Turco said. “Knowing even that we’re going to be talking about reading and education, the smiles on their faces really put things in perspective and give us an appreciation for the opportunity we have to do things like this.”
The rally lasted about an hour and included an introduction to the Stick With Reading Program by Celena, then a short speech by Turco. There was a Q&A session, where kids asked the players questions about their first games, worst injuries, if they’d ever won a Stanley Cup and their favorite video game. The Rally finished with a fun trivia game with questions centered around books and reading. Fistric, a crowd favorite due to his love of video games, and Crombeen took the seventh grade team while “Smarty Marty” Turco, as he is known at these rallies, and Petersen headed up the sixth grade team. With all questions answered correctly, the game ended in a tie. By the end of the competition, players and students alike were involved in the fun.
“I’m always eager to bring the young guys to schools, to experience this and to see the enthusiasm,” Turco said. “We’d be lying if we said we didn’t feel special inside when we walked in there.”
E.D. Walker Middle School was chosen as the site to kick off this season’s program due to its 90 percent student enrollment in the Stick With Reading Program. Much of that credit can be given to librarian Lisa Sharbaugh. Sharbaugh felt the program was a great idea, and said she went to the school’s reading teachers and asked them to get their students to join in.
“We have a great staff here, so everybody was really on board,” she said.
Sharbaugh, a first-year librarian, said one of her goals was to get kids, especially boys, to truly love reading and to be excited about it.
“The Stick With Reading Program really helped make that easy because all the students here really admire sports heroes, especially,” she said. “It’s really great to see people in sports encouraging reading, because that really gets the boys hooked into it, too.”
Sharbaugh said she’s noticed boys have a tendency to shy away from reading and the library a bit more than girls, and to have the outside influence of sports stars like Turco and the Stars really helps change their minds about reading.
“I’m really thankful that people who aren’t involved in education still care about education and care about reading,” she said. “It’s wonderful when we have the support of the community, especially people in the community who students really look up to, like sports heroes.”
While the children enrolled in the program are the obvious benefactors, Turco said he definitely gets something back from being involved each year.
“The letters I get, it’s kind of unfair that I get the recognition, being the spokesperson with all the work that goes into it, but the letters are so endearing,” he said. “To have a parent tell me their son or daughter has taken a liking to reading and they understand how important it is in life … I just need to read one letter to know that all the time and energy and all the work that goes into it is so well worth it. I get numerous letters a year, and then to come here to E.D. Walker and other schools over the years and see their enthusiasm, it never gets old and it gets better ever year.”
The State Farm Insurance Dallas Stars Stick With Reading Program began Monday and will run through Dec. 8. More than 35,000 students throughout the Metroplex have enrolled this season.
The program, presented by MetroPCS and JCPenney, was established in 1998 to encourage kids to develop the habit of reading in their free time. Students record their leisure reading over an eight-week period for the chance to win great prizes, provided by Best Buy. The classroom with the highest total minutes read by its students will earn tickets to a Dallas Stars game. The school with the most minutes overall will win a Dallas Stars Street Squad party. The individual child in each age group with the most minutes read will win tickets to a Dallas Stars game for themselves and their family, be recognized during the game and get a private meet-and-greet with Turco.