Clovis East graduate Keri Allred chose Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California as her platform when she competed in the Miss Fresno County pageant and won. Now she’s doing something to make a real difference, not just for her “Little,” but for the entire organization.
Allred, who has been a mentor, or a “Big” for about a year, encourages her Little, 7-year-old Alijanah, to read to her.
“I would really like to encourage literacy amongst the youth,” she said. “With generations to come, we really need to stress how important education is and how that’s going to benefit you in the long run. Reading is always, always going to help you, whether you’re reading books or magazines or articles on the web.”
To make children’s books more accessible to her and the rest of the Bigs and Littles in the organization, Allred has organized a four-day book drive that begins Thursday at Barnes & Noble. She hopes to create a mini library at BB/BS.
“I would like a lot of people to come. People buy books, so if they can just help us when they’re buying the books in the next four days that would be great,” she said.
The first day of the event will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12 at the Fresno Barnes & Noble, 7849 N. Blackstone Ave. There will be a magic show along with superhero crafts. Children are encouraged to dress up as their favorite superhero, Allred said.
From 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, kids can party with a princess, and Allred will appear as Miss Fresno County. On Saturday, Nov. 14, participants will be treated to story time with Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” and a magic show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
On Sunday, Nov. 15, Allred’s other alter ego, Peaches the Clown, will host a Disney carnival, paint children’s faces and make balloon figures from noon to 5 p.m.
“I’ve been Peaches the Clown for five years this past May,” Allred said. “I did it right out of high school when I was 17. I couldn’t get a job because everyone said I needed to be 18.”
Customers visiting Barnes & Noble can look for the Big Brothers Big Sisters booth to get more information about how to sign up as a mentor and get a sticker to wear on their shirt. When they checkout and the cashier sees the sticker, a portion of their purchase will be donated to BB/BS so that the organization can buy its own books.
Guests can also donate used and new books onsite.
Shopping can also be done online; just enter the code 11719556 at checkout so that a portion of the purchase amount will be donated, Allred said.
Allred encourages Alijanah to read to earn points, which she can save up and redeem for outings like a trip to the bowling alley or the upcoming Disney On Ice show.
As a 22-year-old who grew up in a single-parent home since the age of 2, Allred said giving back and mentoring children like her is a passion close to her heart.
“There are so many little kids that need the right opportunities to make good choices and have the encouragement from someone to make good choices,” she said.
Allred attended Tarpey Elementary, Rayburn Intermediate and Clovis East High School.
“I was a troublemaker,” she said of her youth. “I did try, but my mom was always working, so she wasn’t always there to encourage me. I’m now old enough to know that I need to do well for myself and for my future family.”
Allred now attends Fresno City College and hopes to transfer to a University of California campus or a school in southern California where she can study marine biology.
“I want to be a shark expert,” she said. “I want to travel the world discovering different species of shark ... and make a difference in medicine using shark biology.”
Although Allred encourages her Little to think about the future, Alijanah is undecided about a career path and just wants to be a good person. She’s learning how to read.
“Alijanah likes to read princess books, but I bought her a shark book, too,” Allred said with a laugh.