Joe and Dolly

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The Brantford Expositor
Copyright © 2013, The Brantford Expositor

Friday, June 21, 2013

Imagine that: A hug from Dolly

Edition: Final
Source: SUSAN GAMBLE
Column: WORD HAS IT
Section: News Page: A3



You never know unless you ask. So, Brantford kindergarten teacher JOE PERSIA asked superstar country singer DOLLY PARTON for a hug.

Joe was among three local residents from Kids Can Fly who travelled to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for an Imagination Library conference.

Dolly created the program and she often pops in to thank all those who are working to increase early childhood literacy.

“This time,” says Joe, “we were told that her schedule wouldn’t likely allow her to be there but later they announced a surprise. She appeared and took a few questions from the audience.”

Joe, who had done a presentation at the conference about early brain development and the importance of early reading with kids, jumped up to ask about the one thing Kids Can Fly has been dreaming of for years.

“I asked if Canada was going to be on her new tour because we want her to come to Brantford one day. She said they were looking into some Canadian dates. And so I asked if she had a hug for a Canadian enthusiast and she said yes!

“The Dolly you see in all the interviews and TV programs is really her. She’s so authentic and down-to-earth. It was really remarkable to talk to her.”

Joe was only one of two people to get the hug and photo treatment. So, the others from Kids Can Fly – SHARON BROOKS and JEANNE SMITIUCH – were plumb out of luck.

But it’s all part of a bigger plan, says Sharon.

“We gave her a local framed charcoal sketch of a train, which of course is connected to the book The Little Engine That Could and we signed it on the back with messages and information about Kids Can Fly.”

The organization handles the Imagination Library here, ensuring that each of the 600 kids who have been accepted into the program get a book a month mailed to them for their first five years.

The conference reenergized the three as they met plenty of interesting people and gained new ideas, says Sharon.

“We do have a long, long list of about 250 kids waiting on the program,” she said. “Normally we wait until we have the $300 it costs to send out the books for five years but other groups were telling us they only wait until they have one year covered, so we may revisit that.

“And we found out you can actually mail the books to the kids here cheaper from the U.K.!”