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Darling Participates In Reading Fall Festival

The air was brisk, the leaves were falling from the trees and the feeling of fall was in the air. While the changing of the seasons was evident outside, the same ambiance also emanated from the corridors of Charlotte Bobcats Arena on Thursday, October 25, as the Bobcats hosted their Reading Fall Festival.

Bobcats players Emeka Okafor, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Jake Voskuhl, Brevin Knight and Matt Carroll, along with Sting guard Helen Darling, gathered among bales of hay and pumpkins to share an important message and have a good time with the students from Trinity Episcopal School.

The students, who arrived at the arena decked out in Bobcats Read To Achieve shirts, could not contain their excitement as they entered the spacious lobby of the new arena and were introduced to their favorite players.

Following the introductions, the students were ushered to two different stations where the players shared Halloween stories. In one area overlooking the floor of the new arena, Okafor, Voskuhl, Knight and Darling shared with the kids The Little Old Lady Who�s Not Afraid Of Anything. The kids had a great time listening as one object after another tried to scare the little old lady. They also got into the act, imitating the sounds the objects made.

While this was taking place by the main floor, over by the practice court, Felton, May and Carroll were sharing with the kids the story I�m Not Afraid Of The Haunted House. The children�s eyes lit up as several of them were invited up to sit next to the players and help them read from the story.

�It�s really cool to see how happy the kids get,� said Carroll. �You really feel like you are touching them in a positive way.�

�This is what our job is about,� remarked May. �For the kids to see some of their favorite professional athletes and come into a setting like this and have us read to them, it�s great for me and I know it�s great for the other guys. We want to continue being good role models.�

The kids were also given the opportunity to ask the players questions about themselves, a key part of helping them discover the importance of reading.

�I think it�s critical really,� said Jennifer Oates, a teacher at Trinity Episcopal, when asked how important it was for NBA and WNBA players to share the importance of reading. �The students asked the players a lot of questions like where they went to school and how long they�ve been playing basketball. It helps the kids realize that to be a great player, you also have to be a great student.�

The fun did not end after the stories, as the kids were allowed to show off their artistic talents in one of the most recognized traditions of the fall season, the decorating of pumpkins.

As the children got busy coloring and designing their pumpkins, the players walked around mingling and helping the students with their projects.

Several of the players even got into the action, designing pumpkins of their own. Knight created one he planned to take home to his kids.

�I tried it right here,� he said. �I�ll take this one home and let my kids know that I�m not slacking on pumpkin duties.

�I�m enjoying myself. I think the kids are enjoying themselves. The fact that we are able to walk around and they can see that we are people, especially that some of us are normal size people, is a lot of fun. I think they enjoyed the stories, and we want them to know that reading is fun and something they get rewards for doing.�

Darling knows how important it is to develop a love of reading.

�As I got older, I realized reading was so important to everyday life,� she said. �It�s very enjoyable. I learned that reading can be fun. I hope they find a book, really enjoy it and learn that reading is fun.�

The message seemed to ring true to the kids who answered that reading was a fun thing to do, it educates your brain and you can learn a lot of things from doing it when asked why they read.

�Reading is the big thing,� commented Okafor as students gathered around him during the pumpkin decorating session. �Just to get that message at a young age is so important.�

By Malinda Murray, CharlotteSting.com