Thumbs up to sixth grader Ananya Vinay, 12, of Fresno for winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday. Ananya’s winning word was “marocain,” a French word for a ribbed dress fabric made of silk, rayon or wool.
In preceding rounds she nailed the spelling of “gifblaar,” “wayzgoose,” “tschefuncte” “gesith” and “cecidomyia.” Top prize included $40,000, which she plans to split with her little brother and save for their college accounts. She is the first winner from Fresno County in the 90 year history of the event.
She attends Fugman Elementary School in Clovis Unified School District. If you think she’s a one-dimensional girl who does nothing but study, take heart. While being congratulated, she had the presence of mind to put in a plug for her favorite athlete, Stephen Curry, whose Golden State Warriors were playing in the NBA Finals that night. “Go Curry,” she said.
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Thumbs up to the 300 children at Birney Elementary School for earning more than 5,750 packets of food for malnourished children abroad by walking and running through a partnership with UNICEF.
The United Nations Children’s Fund gave one packet of food for every 9,600 steps a child took during the month of May, tracked through electronic wristbands. Many students at Birney qualify for free lunches and live in poverty, but that’s not stopping them from helping feed children around the world.
The children are also helping people in need in the central San Joaquin Valley. Members of the walk/run club raised around $5,000 for Terry’s House, which provides free lodging for families of hospitalized patients at Community Regional Medical Center, and around $2,000 for the American Heart Association.
Thumbs up to about 100 volunteer baby cuddlers at Valley Children’s Hospital, who comfort infants in the neonatal intensive care unit from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Parents can opt out of receiving a cuddler for their baby, but most are happy they are there, according to staff members. Cuddlers also leave cards at the babies’ cribs that tell parents who cuddled their baby each day and for how long. Experts say holding the babies helps them heal.
Thumbs up to Kaiser Permanente Fresno for providing $30,000 so Fresno’s five learner pools can be open for recreation this summer until 8 p.m. The parks are Fink-White, Pinedale, Quigley, Einstein and Romain. The pools are open from 1-5 p.m. weekdays to children under age 12. Teens and adults swim free from 5-8 p.m. About 25,000 people used the pools last summer.
In addition, free swimming lessons are available for more than 100 children in Edison High school’s pool. A junior lifeguard program will teach teens from diverse and low-income neighborhoods to be lifeguards. Details (559) 621-2900 or (559) 621-SWIM (7946).
Thumbs up to Youth Leadership Institute, BRS Financial Group, Realty Concepts, Well Fargo and Evans Energy. The businesses were honored by First 5 Fresno County for their family friendly practices such as breast-feeding rooms with TVs, play spaces for children, flexible work hours, extended family leave, on-site family movie nights and time off to attend school activities.
Happy, healthy families are good for business, according to Emilia Reyes, First 5 Fresno County executive director. “Child-friendly businesses employ committed workers, build loyalty, have greater recruitment and increase their bottom line.”
Thumbs up to the Highway City Community Science Center for being selected a winner of the national Meet Me at the Park campaign. The center will receive a $20,000 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association and The Walt Disney Company.
Community members voted for the winning project throughout Earth Month in April. Meet me at the Park for Science in the Neighborhood was one of 17 park improvement projects selected to receive grant funding.
The grant will allow the Fresno PARCS Department to operate the Highway City Science Center and take the Mobile Science Vehicle equipped with hundreds of diverse informal science projects including robotics, chemical reactions, and exploring solar and wind power science projects into underserved neighborhoods lacking green space.