YMCA’s ‘Fairy Tale Gala’ supports literacy program


The YMCA’s “Fairy Tale Gala,” held Jan. 28 at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island, was a night to behold.

The atmosphere was electric! From greeters and various guests dressed in attire appropriate to the theme as well as decorations and table signs supporting the theme, guests were treated royally.

Cindy Love-Abounader, president and CEO, opened the gala and introduced Board Member Mark Ryczek who welcomed the guests and set the stage for the evening’s events, detailing the critical need that many children in the County have as they struggle with literacy deficiencies.

MOREKiwanis – Terrific Kids, Terrific Cops and more

ANDCalusa Garden Club members present horticulture workshops

ALSO‘Watts for Dinner’: An amazing breakfast at the R’s

Extrapolating from the data accumulated by the Florida Department of Education, Ryczek began by explaining that only 55 percent of 3rd graders are reading at grade level. In addition, a student not reaching grade level proficiency by 3rd grade is 4 times less likely to graduate high school. Furthermore, if a student is living in poverty and not reading at grade level, then they are 13 times less likely to graduate high school. 

Enter the after school YReads program with its impact, held at 3 Title I elementary schools.

  • 54 hours of instruction provided, on average, to each student
  • 92.5 percent of students improved their decoding skills
  • 83.6 percent of students showed improvement in reading comprehension
  • 85.8 percent of students improved their reading fluency skills.

The cost per site for this program is $250,000 to $300,000, most of which is funded by grants and generous, impactful, passionate, and gracious donors.

Following Ryczek’s presentation, Ashley Lupo gave the Invocation.

While dinner was being served, Board Chair/CVO Mick Moore conducted the “Fund-a-Need/Call to Action,” after eloquently telling his “Y Story.” Donors responded by contributing slightly over $150,000!

Entertainment was provided by Marco Island Charter Middle School’s after school Theatrical Club, produced and directed by Gina Sisbarro of Sisbarro Acting Studio.  Sisbarro explained that “Many of our performers started at the YMCA in a program called YMCA Theatrics or with the YMCA summer Camp that runs twice yearly.  It’s wonderful to have the love of theater follow these students into their middle school and high school years.” 

Guests jammed the dance floor moving to the high energy music of the live band, which received numerous kudos as they performed one well-known song after another.