By Nacole Vickery
Photos by Denise Gary, Shelby McBride, Nacole Vickery, and Teresa Dlouhy

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Phoenix Fan Fest 2016 was an extraordinary time shared by our staff and volunteers. We love making kids happy and that’s exactly what we set out to do at the event! Not only did we conduct a scavenger hunt all weekend long but our booth was loaded with books, Highlights magazines, reading buddies, buttons, coloring pages, bookmarks, pirate treasure, games and more.

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The KNTR booth was split as ninjas and pirates took over! One side of the booth featured danger signs, raffle items, KNTR swag, reading buddy adoptions, and fine art prints, among other nifty and fun things for all ages.

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The other side of the booth presented a Pirates vs. Ninjas scavenger hunt, Highlights magazines, coloring pages, pirate ring toss, and pirate and ninja trivia for everyone.

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Our volunteers and staff adorned their KNTR Ninja and KNTR Pirate shirts each day, switching teams the following day. Taunting each other with phrases like “Ninjas rule, Pirates drool,” and “Pirates RRRRRRRRR, Ninjas are knot,” we wore silly faces throughout the weekend. There were other costumes worn by the staff and volunteers, too, adding to the cheer of our booth!

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The Pirates vs. Ninjas Scavenger Hunt was great fun! Children and adults alike played, solving clues that brought them to specific exhibitors for Pirate or Ninja stamps, and returning to the KNTR booth for prizes. Ultimately, Team Ninja won … this time! Participating children received a brand new book and a raffle ticket for a terrific Pirate/Ninja Booty Bag. Adults received a raffle ticket for the Booty Bag. The basket included a copy of The Ninja Handbook, by Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols; Talk Like a Pirate by Lady Wench and Grace O’Blarney; a bag of Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar; the USS READ, a wooden birdhouse ship donated by Hip Pocket Creations; a stuffed ninja plushy; a hand crafted He-Man doll, contributed by Nerd Dollz; and a large DANGER: Ninjas and Pirates and Terrifying Space Monkeys and Lasers and Stuff sign.

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Congratulations to Ninjas Vs. Pirates Booty Bag winner, Michelle E!

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Our raffles included many wonderful, hand crafted items. Volunteer Angela Fox donated a knitted MagiKarp hat and board member Jessica Payne donated a Sith bear and Sith blanket. Redheaded Ruby donated handmade jewelry and items inspired by the show, Stranger Things. Artist Patrick Scullin donated a sketch of “Nathan Jones,” which portrays actor Nathan Fillion as Indiana Jones. Some raffle prizes were donated by kind supporters through KNTR’s Amazon Wish List. On Sunday afternoon, we were greeted with a huge crowd gathered to await the results of the raffle drawings. We drew the winners for each item, much to the joy of the lucky victors!

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KNTR’s Adopt-a-Reading Buddy project was a big success, with kids purchasing three stuffed reading buddies for $3, one to keep for themselves, and two for KNTR to give to children who need a pal to read with at home. It was a terrific way to share the importance of reading at home, as well as an exercise in philanthropy for the children. Then again, some kids found other uses for the buddies….

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Kids Need to Read even had a surprise visit by Fan Fest guest Tahmoh Penikett. You may know him from Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural, Dollhouse, or Man of Steel. A true bibliophile, Tahmoh travels with at least one book to immerse himself into on long flights. He stopped for a photo with our brochure, and shared his enjoyment of reading and his belief in the importance of our mission.

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The inimitable James A. Owen, fantastical author and esteemed KNTR Advisory Council member, graced the KNTR booth with a visit, as well! James is the author of The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, The Meditations trilogy, and the Starchild comic book series. He is also a very entertaining oral storyteller!

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We are immensely grateful all of the exhibitors who participated in the scavenger hunt: Window to the Soul, Nerd Dollz, RedHeaded Ruby, James A. Owen, The 501st Dune Sea Garrison, AZ Shonare Vhekadla Clan (AZ Mando Mercs), Mos Eilsey Base,  Arizona Avengers, Pixy Cakes, Justice League Arizona, Time Travel Mysteries, Two Cats Press, AZ T.A.R.D.I.S., The Dread Fleet, and Very Awesome Girls. We could not have done it without their participation! They are our superstars!

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All in all, over $1,400 was raised for KNTR at Phoenix Fan Fest through the goodwill of the convention staff, volunteers, participants, and attendees. We thank Phoenix Comicon for continually supporting Kids Need to Read through fundraising, awareness raising, and infinite kindness!

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