No jest: Ocean View School District students read thousands of hours to donate to local hospitals

Apr 26, 2023

Over the last three weeks, Abby Wakeland has been focused.

Abby, a fifth-grader at Golden View Elementary School in Huntington Beach, dove right into a read-a-thon going on throughout the Ocean View School District. She read all three books of “The Hunger Games” trilogy, mowing them down with the tenacity of a Katniss Everdeen.

“I like reading a lot,” Abby said. “I just think it’s really fun, and I like reading fiction books because I like imagining what the story’s about, the characters and stuff.”

The districtwide goal of the read-a-thon, done in partnership with the Jester & Pharley Phund, was to promote literacy via reading to help books and dolls get donated to children in four local hospitals.

That mission hit home with Abby, who said her grandmother is a three-time cancer survivor. She was the top reader at Golden View in the three-week period, with 1,505 minutes logged.

She and her classmates at Golden View attended an assembly Wednesday morning, celebrating the completion of the “Reading Makes a Difference” campaign. The read-a-thon was held at five OVSD elementary schools and two middle schools, all of which scheduled assemblies this week.

Ocean View School District Supt. Michael Conroy and Board of Trustees President Patricia Singer were on hand to congratulate the students.

Overall, the Jester & Pharley Phund executive director Amy Hastings said OVSD students read 463,392 minutes — or nearly 8,000 hours. A total of 275 “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” books and 125 Jester & Pharley dolls will be donated to four local hospitals, including Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, Huntington Beach Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Orange County and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach.

Five classrooms at Golden View had every student participate in the read-a-thon, Hastings said.

“One of our big goals for our school this year is showing respect toward others and kindness,” Golden View Principal Lori Florgan said. “It really was nice to tie that in, so the kids can learn empathy and compassion toward other kids who might not have the same privileges of everyday living. It was a great lesson for them.”

“The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” tells the story of a jester who awakes one morning and finds that laughter is missing in his kingdom. He and his helpmate, Pharley, set off on a quest to find it. The book was written and illustrated by David Saltzman, a Palos Verdes native who was a senior at Yale University when he died of cancer in 1990, at the age of 22.

The book was eventually published by Saltzman’s family in 1995, and soon earned a spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list. His mother Barbara, a former longtime entertainment editor at the Los Angeles Times, started the nonprofit the Jester & Pharley Phund in 2000.

More than 178,000 participants since then have read for hours to donate “Jester” books and dolls to patients in their communities.

Adrienne Feilden, a child life specialist at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, said that Hastings first reached out to her nearly a decade ago.

“We’ve had the book in our play room and with our kiddos for that many years,” Feilden said. “Everybody loves them, the dolls also. The dolls can become a comfort item that kids and teenagers take home, and remember that it was comforting for them when they were in the hospital.”

The top readers at other OVSD schools included Audrey Lhen Bandola, a fourth-grader at College View Elementary; Yara Deek, a fifth-grader at Star View Elementary; Arielle Valadez Cortez, a fifth-grader at Westmont Elementary; Lincoln Kakimoto, a fifth-grader at Lake View Elementary; Taylee Tran, a seventh-grader at Vista View Middle School, and Demond Orozco, a seventh-grader at Spring View Middle School.

“If we could get more sponsorships, we’d do this in every school district, certainly in L.A. and Orange counties,” Barbara Saltzman said. “I knew when I first saw David’s rough sketches for the book and when he was talking to us about it, and then when we saw it, that this book had universal appeal.”

Her message to the students at Golden View Elementary on Wednesday was simple, yet profound.

“I hope that you continue your reading,” Saltzman said. “Like David, you’ll find that reading opens so many doors and windows in your life and you can learn so much. I hope that you will continue to be kind and caring and compassionate, and be friendly to people. If you can see if they’re having a bad day, just be there for them.”

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