by Denise Gary
Photographs by Robert Gary and Denise Gary

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Kids Need to Read was deeply honored to accept the Veora E. Johnson Spirit of Unity Award for Community Service at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration Gala in Mesa, Arizona. We are most grateful to the committee for recognizing our organization’s work on behalf of childhood literacy.


The Veora E. Johnson Spirit of Unity Award was especially meaningful to Kids Need to Read in light of the organization’s Kids-N-Peace program and Peace Packs Book Collection, both inspiring non-violent conflict resolution and peaceful leadership skills. As an organization, we believe that children require positive role models in order to exhibit exceptional behavior, and extraordinary exemplars can be found on the pages of relevant literary works. Books are especially useful tools for children living in challenging circumstances and in need of positive inspiration.

The MLK, Jr. Community Celebration Gala program was excellent. All of the performances were a pleasure, but my favorite was the fantastic Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Choir, who had us all dancing and praising along with them! I did not want them to leave the stage! The headliner, Grammy nominated jazz artist Jonathan Butler, was also terrific!

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I also had a wonderful time representing Kids Need to Read as a Spirit of Unity Award recipient in the Mesa MLK Celebration Parade. It was a beautiful day with a fantastic turnout!

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Nancy was KNTR’s awesome driver and we sure had a blast together!

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Wishing everyone peace and unity in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the many brave men and women who have stood strong for justice, compassion, peace, and equal rights for all.


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