In just two short years, Read Better Be Better has accumulated a passionate community of supporters who believe strongly in the need to solve Arizona’s literacy crisis. This was overwhelmingly (and happily!) evident at RBBB’s latest event, a fundraising dinner sponsored by the Helios Education Foundation at Cibo Urban Pizzeria in downtown Phoenix.

The dinner took place on October 3rd, and the topic of the evening was an important one: Arizona’s Literacy Crisis: Empowering Our Children to Shape the Future of Phoenix.

Rick McCartney of InMedia was our dynamic emcee for the night, and as a longtime, proud supporter of RBBB and a mentor to Founder and CEO Sophie Etchart, his presence helped drive RBBB’s message home.

Pizza With an Impact

While guests enjoyed Cibo’s famous pizza, (if you haven’t had it yet, you’re missing out!) a few noteworthy speakers were on hand to talk to attendees about the critical nature of Arizona’s literacy crisis and the importance of RBBB’s work.

The keynote speaker of the evening was Dr. Michael Kelley, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. He spoke to guests about the urgent need for literacy skills in early childhood and the lifelong problems faced by children who are not given the opportunity to master literacy skills by the end of third grade.

Dr. Karen Ortiz also spoke at the event, as she has helped lead statewide initiatives for children through her work as an early childhood policy advisor to Arizona’s Governor Janet Napolitano and as Director of the State Board of School Readiness. Currently, Karen leads Helios Education Foundation’s early childhood department and is on RBBB’s Governing Board.

Karen discussed her personal connection to Read Better Be Better and attested to the impact of the program and her confidence in its future.

Two ‘Bigs’ Explain How RBBB Changed Their Lives


Two RBBB alumnae were also at the event to showcase how RBBB positively impacted their lives. The first to speak was Miss Jael Echeveste, who was a Big in RBBB last year at Avondale Middle School.

Jael explained how the program gave her a sense of purpose and responsibility, how it helped her develop empathy, and how it enabled her to develop crucial leadership skills she will use for the rest of her life.

Next was Miss Josie Juarez, who was a Big last year at Whittier Elementary School in the Phoenix Elementary School District. At the time, Josie was exceedingly shy, but the program greatly improved her confidence, as evidenced by her ability to stand up and speak eloquently in front of 40 guests at the event.

A Huge ‘Thank You’ From RBBB!

At the end of what was already a wonderful evening, guests pledged the outstanding amount of $11,030.

RBBB was truly humbled by this outpouring of support from the community, as this amount is enough to fund an entire school site for a year.

Notably, Rick McCartney pledged $1,000, and Erin Cornelius of Angels On Patrol pledged $4,000.

Read Better Be Better would like to extend a huge thank you to all attendees and speakers, as well as Kristin Moon, a member of our Advisory Board who planned and organized the event pro bono.

Without the generous support from our community, the work we do wouldn’t be possible. (And thanks to Cibo, that work was made a little more delicious for the evening.)

Did you attend our fundraising dinner at Cibo? Share your thoughts in comments below!