Awards Banquet Draws a Crowd
By Mary Heyl
Last Wednesday, the Ellicottville Rotary Club honored an impressive group of students who have been exploring the art of storytelling, in all its forms, all year long: the Ellicottville Young Writers and Illustrators Club.
Led by Katie Benatovich, the club is made up of 36 students in grades 4-6 from Ellicottville Central School who gather for weekly workshops at the Ellicottville Memorial Library.
“Each workshop is different,” says Benatovich, “because we explore all aspects of storytelling, including writing, illustrating, design, oral storytelling and more.”
Wednesday’s banquet recognized each student’s dedication and creativity in completing an entire school year of workshops; it was also a celebration of all those who make such a club possible.
Now in its third year, the EVL Young Writers and Illustrators Club has been sponsored by Rotary’s Foundation for Youth since its inception, said Rotary member and past president Greg Cappelli. The Foundation was created in 2005 to sponsor a range of projects for area youth.
A few years ago, the Rotary Club sponsored a very special project: it published Benatovich’s children’s book, C is for Courage, the proceeds of which she donated to Camp Good Days, an organization that benefits children affected by cancer.
This began the club’s relationship with Benatovich and the collaboration that formed the EVL Young Writers and Illustrators Club.
“There are several groups who work together to make this writers club possible,” according to Benatovich. “Thanks to Rotary and the library, we have a wonderful place to meet. The school kindly buses students to the library after school on Wednesdays and parents pick up their children at the end of the workshop.”
Indeed, this team effort was celebrated last Wednesday night when some 90 students, parents and Rotary members gathered in the Rotary Club Auditorium at the EVL Town Center.
Writers Club members received certificates of achievement for completing the workshops, and the club’s volunteers who worked all year in developing and presenting workshops were honored.
The club’s achievements were also celebrated with a delicious meal of spaghetti and meatballs donated by Michael and Patti DiPaolo, owners of Italian restaurant Ilio DiPaolo’s in Blasdell, New York. “Not only did the DiPaolos donate the entire meal, but Michael DiPaolo served as our chef for the evening,” said Cappelli. “It was delicious!”
At the banquet, Benatovich gave a presentation about the club’s past projects and upcoming workshops. Author of six tri-lingual children’s books, Benatovich’s enthusiasm for storytelling is unmistakable.
“I love books, reading and sharing that joy with children,” said Benatovich. “This club allows children to explore what they’re learning at school in many different ways.”
Benatovich explained that students have participated in workshops involving written skits, acrostic poetry and several performance-based forms of storytelling, including stage combat and stunt work!
“I like to share the passions and talents we have among our club members and volunteers,” she said.
One volunteer is pursuing an education in animation and shared with the club the process of storytelling through animation. Another workshop leader shared with the club her passion as an artist and led members through a workshop involving animal drawing.
Calligraphy, coin design and even this month’s yoga workshop all encourage and inspire students to express themselves through mediums and modes they may not have ever experienced before.
Benatovich often bases workshops on “what’s around us,” including Allegheny State Park, which is a workshop in the making for next year.
Although many of the club’s members are unsure of exactly what kind of career they may pursue, their experience in the Young Writers and Illustrators Club has inspired the kind of growth that is its own reward.
“This club is about seeing possibilities. Students are discovering talents, trying new things and developing new interests that will take them far,” said Benatovich.
Thanks to the EVL Rotary Club’s sponsorship, the Young Writers and Illustrators Club is free for any ECS student in grades 4-6. The club begins meeting at the end of September through the end of the school year and welcomes new members, including those who participate in other extracurricular activities and athletics.
Interested in supporting the Young Writers and Illustrators Club? Cappelli encourages individuals to attend Tuscan Moon, a gourmet dinner party and tribute to Michael Kerns, which will be held on Saturday, August 29 at Holiday Valley. Ellicottville’s top restaurants will be serving their finest Italian specialties; all proceeds will benefit the Rotary Foundation for Youth and Family Support for Ellicottville. For more information, visit http://www.ellicottvilleny.com/tuscan-moon/.