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Rotarians to defend spelling bee title

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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 9, 2009
  • East County
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MANATEE COUNTY — Dr. Melissa Hammond doesn’t mind being the queen bee.

It’s a title earned by a lifelong knack for spelling words correctly.

And on Sept. 12, Hammond and her teammates — Janet Gibson, Christi Womack and Kay Coley (an alternate) — will defend their title as spelling champions at the Third Annual Adult Corporate/Community Spelling Bee.

“We are taking it very seriously,” said Hammond, a Mill Creek resident. “We want to win again. We have a really nice trophy we got last year, and we want to hold onto it.”

The event, hosted by the Literacy Council of Manatee, will be held from 6-10 p.m., at the Bradenton Elks Lodge, 2511 75th St. W. Proceeds from each $30 ticket benefit the Literacy Council’s mission to improve literacy in the area while providing attendees with dinner, the opportunity to participate in a silent auction and a chance to cheer on their favorite team.

“We like to say it’s a fundraiser and a fun-raiser,” said Lori Johnson, executive director of the literary council. “We take our mission very seriously, and like every non-profit, these times are tough. This is a way people can have fun and still help us provide services to adults who need tutoring.”

Ten three-member teams will battle on stage as they attempt to spell more common words such as “aluminum” and “mackerel” and more complex ones, such as last year’s winning word, “obsequious.”

To make things more interesting, teams also can buy their way out of a misspelled word.

For example, $20 purchases a team a “spell again” card, which gives it a chance to re-spell a word or to get a new word to spell altogether.

This year, organizers also have instituted a phone-a-friend card, which allows competitors to call either a person in the audience or at home for help, and a “bribe-a-judge” card, which magically makes a misspelled word seem correct in the judge’s mind.

“It’s not like a kids’ spelling bee,” Johnson said. “It’s very fun. The (Manatee County) library staff actually comes up with the words.”

Hammond agreed the event would be entertaining, noting she may bring out her Rotary-colored pompoms so supporters of East Manatee Rotary can cheer a little more boldly.

“It should be a fun night out,” she said.

Several teams also will be performing humorous skits to introduce themselves and to entertain the audience.

Johnson said the event is the largest fundraiser for the organization, which currently provides one-on-one tutoring and English-as-a-second language classes to about 90 adults.

The Literacy Council of Manatee began instructing adults 18 years and older in 1978 and has tutored more than 2,000 adults since that time. The organization serves between 115 and 140 people annually, of which about one-third are American-born and two-thirds are foreign born.

For more information about the Literacy Council, visit the organization’s Web site at or call 746-8197.

Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].