By Denise Gary
Photographs by Bruce Matsunaga, Robert Gary, Shelby McBride, and Denise Gary

Everyone [at the Kids Need to Read booth] was so enthusiastic and helpful. This is a great charity and I felt the people cared immensely about helping kids. —Phoenix Comicon attendee

Phoenix Comicon 2016 resulted in a record-shattering $64,000 for Kids Need to Read! This was more than double the amount raised last year ($28,000) and truly an extraordinary contribution for any convention to provide to its sponsored charity! We are looking forward to doing wonderful works on behalf of childhood literacy, thanks to the generosity of Phoenix Comicon—an ardent supporter of exceptional education for all children! To give proper thanks to Phoenix Comicon and the many groups and individuals who supported this spectacular fundraising effort, KNTR posted a Marathon of Thanks on its social media channels over a three week period in an attempt to demonstrate our heartfelt gratitude. You can view all of these posts and photographs below, starting with the children first. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!

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There is nothing we love more at Phoenix Comicon than engaging with children! We make the KNTR booth a special place for kids by offering the Build-a-Book program with Steven Riley, new books, Highlights magazines, and adorable literacy buttons, all free of charge! Children can also adopt stuffed reading buddies for themselves and disadvantaged kids. It’s a great way for them to learn the spirit of giving. Phoenix Comicon provided the booth to KNTR, and sponsors Arizona Coyotes and Highlights for Children helped us create the magic!

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Heartfelt thanks to author Steven Riley for volunteering his time to run the KNTR Build-a-Book program at Phoenix Comicon for the seventh year! Steven brings so much joy and laughter to participants and their caregivers, and the children learn that they, too, can create settings, characters, and plots using their own imaginations! KNTR constantly receives compliments on this terrific program!

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We are so grateful to the wonderful Arizona Coyotes and their Community Team for sponsoring the KNTR Build-a-Book program! Kids learn the step-by-step process of creating a story during these interactive sessions. All participating children received a brand new hardcover book and “Howling for Books” backpack filled with swag, courtesy of the Yotes’ generosity! Huge thanks to the Coyotes—with an extra shout out to Olivia, Rachel and Natalia—for making this popular program possible for the children!

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Thank you to Howler for hanging around the KNTR booth, making it an extra magical place to be! The rowdy coyote brought smiles and laughter to the kids—and adults—every moment he was with us! Howler’s joyful shenanigans embody KNTR’s tagline, “Inspiring Imagination!”

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Thanks so much to Highlights for Children, who made it possible for KNTR to provide Highlights magazines to the children attending Phoenix Comicon! Because of this company’s constant support of KNTR’s literacy initiatives, we have been able to provide these fantastic magazines to children since 2009! The kids LOVE them and so do we!

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We would like to send “happy” thanks to Zoe, who has brought pure joy to our volunteers at Phoenix Comicon over the past three years! She brings her radiant smile, yummy Dum Dums, and a jubilance for living every moment! According to her mom, KNTR is her favorite convention experience. The feeling is mutual!

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Kids Need to Read had a terrific time hosting the Youth Fashion Show! The children had so much fun modeling their costumes and each one left with a prize bag! Enormous thanks to LeeAnn Jensen for doing such a wonderful job organizing the event, and to the drama students of Pieceful Solutions for putting on such a spectacular intermission program!

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“One Party to Rule Them All” was the Saturday night party sponsored by Phoenix Comicon and hosted by Blue Ribbon Army to benefit KNTR 100%! The efforts of these two organizations, along with organizers Matt & Jenn Hinds, brought in an astonishing $20,180, contributing mightily to KNTR! Thank you to everyone for such gracious support, hard work, and a very fun evening!

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The Fifth Annual KNTR Charity Texas Hold’em Tournament, hosted by our friends at Lupine Entertainment, raised an incredible $4,356 for KNTR! Much love to Randy DeVault and Angie Ramey of Lupine; Phoenix Comicon; major table sponsors Parchment and Vegas 2 U; sponsors Big Chris Art, Big Dog Ink and Zenescope Entertainment; guest artist Jen Broomall; and the many other prize sponsors, dealers and participants who make this event an enormous success every year. We appreciate the kindness so much!

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Kids Need to Read had a fantastic evening hosting Drinks with Authors, where convention attendees enjoyed visiting with authors in a casual setting. Featuring an “Instagram” photo op, fantastic live story creation fundraiser by author Mary Robinette Kowal on a gorgeous 1920s-era Royal typewriter, door prizes and raffles, KNTR raised $625 during the evening! Thanks so much to Mary and all of the participating authors, Phoenix Comicon, and organizer Danie Hermes for pulling everything together so beautifully!

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Phoenix Comicon sponsored Jareth the Goblin King’s Masquerade Ball in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Labyrinth. The costumes were spectacular! Raffles and games raised $176 for KNTR! Thank you to everyone for making our organization part of the fun!

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Bands and food carts were the feature of Con on Adams Street, a daily/nightly street party sponsored by Phoenix Comicon. It was a great place to relax outside the convention halls and proceeds resulted in $3,430 for KNTR! Many thanks to Phoenix Comicon, organizer Lee Palmer, R Entertainment, and everyone who took some time to enjoy the party!

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The Phoenix Comicon art sketch-offs benefiting KNTR were so much fun, thanks to the many good-natured artists who contributed their time and talent, as well as KNTR staffer Shelby “It’s for the Children” McBride, who served as a delightful master of ceremonies. A total of $1,726 was raised through live auctions of the sketches, many drawn according to attendee suggestions. Thanks so much to the artists, attendees, organizer Shawn Demumbrum, and Phoenix Comicon!

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Kids—and adults—LOVE to play Blast-a-Trooper in the exciting Star Wars Neighborhood! The event conducted by 501st Legion Dune Sea Garrison raised an amazing $737 for KNTR! The Dune Sea Garrison was the first cosplay group to support KNTR at Phoenix Comicon, beginning with a fantastic USO-style show in 2008! We are forever grateful for their enthusiastic support at the convention and at our book distribution events for children!

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The Arizona Avengers have long supported our organization at Phoenix Comicon. This year they raised a most excellent $344 for KNTR through their booth raffles! The Marvel world they created at the convention was super cool, with many fun things to see and experience. Thanks so much to our Avenger pals for their constant support and for helping KNTR out at book distribution events!

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The Zombie Maze run by The Department of Zombie Defense and Umbrella Corporation Arizona Hive was immensely popular! The organizations worked nonstop and raised an astounding $2,800 for KNTR! We had fun running through the maze and posing for photos with their hideous zombie creations. Heartfelt thanks to everyone involved!

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Thanks so much to the drama students at Pieceful Solutions for delivering an amazing and hilarious voice-over performance during the Phoenix Comicon Youth Fashion Show hosted by KNTR, to Miss Valley of the Sun Kelsey Kelleher for bringing smiles to children at the KNTR booth, and to KWSS 93.9 FM’s Dani Cutler for so kindly including KNTR in the radio station’s convention interviews!

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Two authors each gave KNTR a case of their books at Phoenix Comicon! We were thrilled to receive Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X. from Frank Beddor, and Pandamonium: Death of a King, Book 1 from Patrick C. Scullin! Much gratitude to Frank and Patrick for their generous sacrifice!

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The KNTR booth raffles were crazy hot, raising $1,409! This was directly due to the stunning bounty of fantastic prizes contributed to the organization by the generous artists, craftspeople, and donors who enthusiastically supported the effort! We are amazed and grateful to everyone who sacrificed their treasures for the cause!

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We are so fortunate to be blessed with kind, hardworking volunteers and staff who pour their hearts into serving KNTR at Phoenix Comicon and throughout the year. Together they raised $3,255 at the KNTR booth, with several contributing their handiwork to sell or raffle. We are filled with appreciation for everything they do! We want to acknowledge our talented photographers for their beautiful images. They capture thrilling memories for everyone to enjoy year after year!

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The final entry in our “Marathon of Thanks” honors convention Founder and Director Matt Solberg, Programming Director Joe Boudrie, and the entire Phoenix Comicon team! Phoenix Comicon made an incredibly generous decision to dedicate the first 100 Fast Passes to KNTR, which totaled $24,900 in proceeds above and beyond the many events the convention conducted on behalf of our organization. The $64,000 end result was spectacular! What an exceptional level of commitment toward the support of literacy programs benefiting children living throughout the Valley of the Sun and beyond!

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It is not an exaggeration to say we feel like we have landed over the rainbow! Our expressions of gratitude seem woefully inadequate, yet they are all we have to offer to the Phoenix Comicon staff, volunteers, attendees, and givers of goodness who have blessed Kids Need to Read with their constant kindness, as well as their continuing support on behalf of children in need of literary treasure. We cherish our extraordinary partnership and humbly thank Matt, Joe, and every participant!

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