Spell, Spell, Spell…the season of musical tintinnabulation of spelling words peaked again this week in Washington D.C. at the 86th National Spelling Bee, May 28-30th.

Champions of the local area school bees held in December competed at The Lee County Spelling Bee hosted by Trinity Christian School on January 31 at the Opelika Sportsplex.

Congratulations to the winner, KeyShawn Shaw, who represented Opelika Middle School and Lee County on March 9 at The Alabama State Bee at Oak Mountain High School! Alabama’s top speller this year, Meghana Giri, reigns from Anniston and competed against 280 other students. For results, visit spellingbee.com.

With apologies to Edgar Allen Poe, my family’s last decade has “kept time, time, time in a sort of Runic rhyme” of spelling. Each of our three children has represented Opelika City Schools at the Lee County Spelling Bee for the last 10 years straight. Alas, they are no longer eligible as children may only compete until age 14 or completion of 8th grade. We remain devotees to all the good that comes from the competition and learning of words.

Kevin, our youngest child, made it all the way to the National Spelling Bee twice. Susan McDougal of Adventure Travel, the sponsor of the Alabama State Spelling Bee, was a fountainhead of encouragement and took care of every travel detail. Sponsors are under contract with Scripps (host of the National Spelling Bee) to execute the regional or state competition and then cover the expenses associated with the trip to Washington, D.C. Life of our hometown “Spellebrity” has returned to normal; the only one chasing him down for photos nowadays is the “momarazzi”, me!

During Bee Week, we met many of the spellers’ sponsors and families. Newspapers, the traditional sponsors of spelling bees, are dropping sponsorships at an increasing rate. In our state, the last year that the Birmingham News sponsored the Alabama State Spelling Bee was 2008. Adventure Travel, already an ardent supporter of local bees, benevolently picked up the State Bee sponsorship. Across America, one of the organizations picking up dropped sponsorships is the Community Foundation. A Community Foundation is a tax-exempt public charity created by and for the people in a local area. A community foundation enables people with philanthropic interests to easily and effectively support the issues they care about. The Community Foundation of East Alabama (CFEA) was incorporated in 2007 and is actively seeking ways to create long-term benefits for our area through its function as a “collective savings account.”

After a presentation to the Board of the CFEA and discussion with Scripps, a “Second Speller” Fund was created at CFEA. Scripps has approved the CFEA to be a sponsor of a second Alabama speller to the National Spelling Bee! Alabama is one of only 17 states that sends just one speller. 2010 census data shows population growth in our state that certainly merits another spot! With the influx of military, automotive and other high-tech brainpower, Alabama’s children are well-equipped and can be competitive on the national stage.

As early as 2014, the State Spelling Bee could be split into 2 regional bees with 2 winners BOTH representing Alabama in Washington, DC. The Second Speller Fund illustrates the beauty and strength of community foundations by “connecting people who care with causes that matter”. If you are interested in supporting the campaign to send a second speller from Alabama to the National Spelling Bee, contact the CFEA at 334-744-1020 or www.tcfeastalabama.org.


Shirley Lazenby