August 2017
Dr. Julie Finck with a group of children attending Camp Adventure!

Dear Houston Community,

Children donning their bright yellow Camp Adventure! t-shirts spread throughout Bastian Elementary School on the south side of Houston. Peering into the classroom windows that morning, I could see that children were actively engaged in dissecting owl pellets, wearing rubber gloves and using tweezers to search for hidden bones to collect in baggies. I peeked into a class and heard a child proclaim that he had discovered a claw, to which the others students shouted, "Let me see!" I grinned and closed the door to continue my observations.

I met up with a group of children walking down the hall being led by their volunteer teachers. Upon seeing me, a six-year-old little girl with a round face and big braids in her hair skipped over. She smiled wide, causing her missing front tooth to be exposed, and introduced herself. I replied accordingly with, "I'm Miss Julie." After a brief pause, she stated matter-of-factly, "My father is in jail. He kicked my mom in the face." She then grabbed my hand tightly, holding it while talking to me until we reached her assigned classroom. I watched her stroll back to her desk, smiling and chatting with her new friends. She hugged a volunteer before she took her seat.

I lingered in the doorway, watching the interactions of the volunteers and children. It warmed my heart to see the little girl and the other children so happy and having fun, eager to learn. Yet, I continue to recount her words and ruminate about the circumstances and harsh reality of her life. Unfortunately, she is only one of many children in our community who need our help in paving the way to a brighter future. I remain encouraged that, together, we will continue to make a meaningful difference in their lives.

Camp Adventure! is just one piece of an important puzzle to mitigate the summer learning slide and help more children become good readers. For the children and all involved, it meant so much more. I am deeply grateful to our partners and the hundreds of volunteers for making Camp Adventure! a meaningful and unforgettable experience for the more than 300 children who participated during the four-week period.

I hope you enjoy the stories and the pictures in this edition of our newsletter. Thank you for taking time to read and be a part of our important cause.


Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.

Phillips 66 volunteer with Camp Adventure! student.
Photo Credit: Michelle Watson, CatchLight Group
The focus of Phillips 66 is to provide energy and improve lives. They do this not only to drive the bottom line, but more importantly, to positively impact the communities in which their employees and customers live and work. As the signature sponsor of our 2017 Camp Adventure! for the third year in a row, Phillips 66 and its employees have invested financial resources and the time and talent of more than 100 volunteers to make the two-week camps available for free to several hundred disadvantaged children across our city. In addition, thanks to connections Phillips 66 has facilitated with other community-based organizations, the children at Camp Adventure! participated in a very special assembly led by Crime Stoppers and a reading rally led by Houston Astros mascot, Orbit. These and other activities simply would not be possible without the commitment from Phillips 66 to ensure that children have a meaningful and unforgettable summer!


Children visit with Houston Grand Opera singer
Dennis Arrowsmith following assembly.
Photo Credit: Michelle Watson, CatchLight Group

Backstage passes to the Houston Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera weren't required for the children at Camp Adventure! to get close and personal with the artists. Every child was a V.I.P.! 

Thanks to the generous time and talent of three community-embedded musicians with the Houston Symphony, every morning children received small group sessions to gain important cognitive and non-cognitive skills, such as listening, rhythm, sequencing, interpretation, pattern recognition, and story-creation, as well as to build a stronger vocabulary. The Houston Symphony musicians reached a crescendo when they held a "Symphony Petting Zoo," providing children an opportunity to touch instruments, including a cello, violin, viola, and a drum, along with a private concert during which children sang songs they learned during camp to music played by the symphonic trio.

Houston Grand Opera Singer Dennis Arrowsmith brought the book Encore Opera Cat to life with his tenor voice. He had the children so engaged in the storytelling song that they sang along with him in Italian each time the main character, Alma the Cat, belted out the lyrics "Oh mio babinno caro" ("Oh, my beloved father"). Following the encore performance, the plush toy cat serving as a prop during the assembly was quickly mobbed by the children wanting to pet it. If only the cat could be brought to life like Dennis so eloquently brought the book to life through his reading and singing.

The Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera certainly deserve a standing ovation. Bravo!

Kids march behind with Tony Parce, Community-Embedded Musician
with the Houston Symphony.
Photo Credit: Michelle Watson, CatchLight Group

Children at Camp Adventure! learned the value of the dollar from financial power houses JP Morgan Chase & Co. and PricewaterhouseCoopers as they participated in lessons and activities aimed to further their knowledge and skills on saving money, buying a home, creditworthiness and taxes. The curriculum, co-developed in partnership with the Children's Museum of Houston, was delivered by more than 200 summer interns and employees from the firms. During the two weeks of the summer learning camp, children earned Camp Adventure! bucks, which they saved and spent the last day in the Target pop-up store. Each child had an opportunity to also give a few bucks to a charity of their choice.
 JPMorgan Chase & Co. volunteer speaks with children about career opportunities.

PWC volunteers work with children on activity.


For the second year in a row, the local Target team supported Camp Adventure! They sent 250 Target team member volunteers who donated more than 2,000 hours of their time and created a special pop-up shop for campers. On the last day of Camp Adventure! children received a special treat thanks to the generosity of Target and its employees. Target employees transformed a classroom at Atherton Elementary into a Target pop-up store in which children spent the Camp Adventure! bucks they earned during the two-week summer learning camp. Creating the environment of a typical Target store, the pop-up version included an array of exclusive toys and craft items, cash registers to take Camp Adventure! bucks, and employees to manage the store. Children squealed with excitement when Bullseye, the Target mascot, appeared to get them fired up about reading and help them shop in the store.

Target volunteer assists children in choosing items from the Target pop-up store at Camp Adventure! 

Target mascot, Bullseye, makes special appearance during Camp Adventure! 


Schlumberger engineer working closely with students as
they learn about the buoyancy method.

As part of the cultural STEM curriculum at Camp Adventure!, 26 engineers from  Schlumberger and its affiliate company,  M-I SWACO, volunteered their time over two days to demonstrate the possibilities involved in the field of engineering and to ignite children's curiosity. The children enjoyed the interactive Curious Kids' Museum and activities based on Paula McCann Harris's book When I Grow Up I Want to be an Engineer . Inside the classrooms, engineers guided children through various hands-on experiments that demonstrated concepts such as the buoyancy method, a technique for measuring the volume of a sample by submerging it in a bath of mercury and observing the increase in the weight of the bath. Don't worry, in the experiment with kids, liquid dish detergent was used as an alternative to toxic mercury. The sessions with the passionate volunteers from Schlumberger and M-I SWACO will go a long way with the students by showing them that learning can be important and fun! 

We are proud to partner with 
MetroNational  throughout the month of August to hold a  Back to School Book and Supply Drive  to benefit economically disadvantaged children attending  Spring Branch ISD . MetroNational, a privately-held real estate investment, development and management company most commonly known for its ownership of Memorial City, will be placing collection bins in each of the Memorial City Office lobbies, Memorial City Mall's concierge center and its residential building, the Fountains, for employees and patrons to make donations. The following school supplies are needed most: dry erase markers, washable markers, pocket folders, spiral-bound notebooks, pencils, blunt fiskar scissors, glue sticks, facial tissue and Post-It Notes.

Special events will also be held every Tuesday at 10:00 AM at The Square during the month of August for families. These events will feature readings from local children's authors and other special guests. Mark your calendars, gather books and supplies and head to Memorial City to have fun and make a difference in the lives of children in Spring Branch ISD. This is a great opportunity to teach your child the importance of giving back and the value of helping other children who need support with basic needs, such as books and school supplies. If your business offices in a MetroNational facility, we encourage you to make this a company-wide drive. Contact Ricki Hendrix, Operations Manager, at or 346-212-2310 to learn more.

Join us as we once again don our black ties and gowns for the third annual Jungle Book Gala to be held on Friday, September 22, 2017, at the beautiful Dunlavy. This year, we are excited to welcome Honorary Chair Whitney Mercilus, #59 of the Houston Texans, and Emcee Chita Craft, meteorologist for KHOU-11 News, to our fabulous event. The evening will be filled with lite bites, cocktails, dancing, an amazing silent auction, and other "wild" surprises. 

Thank you to our 2017 Jungle Book Gala sponsors!

Bank of Texas
Beverly & Jim Postl
Hadi Law Firm
EMG Center of Houston
Marigold Couture
Phillips 66
Progressive Medicine Associates
Julie & Ron Finck
Amy & Kyle McCully
Karen Stowers- Greenwood King Properties
Purchase your tickets today or become a sponsor. Proceeds from this black-tie fundraiser provides support for YPG activities serving children in economically disadvantaged communities of Houston.

Mrs. Barbara Bush is one of the most beloved first ladies in the history of our country. Championing the cause of literacy and wearing her signature pearls, Mrs. Bush has created a legacy of impact that will transcend generations.

The Ladies for Literacy Guild of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is honored to host a raffle for the exquisite, double strand of pearls worn by First Lady Barbara Bush in this photograph. You have a chance to win these graduated white freshwater pearls measuring 13.2mm - 18.0mm, accompanied by the photograph for authenticity. Purchase your raffle tickets today for $100 each.
The drawing for the raffle will be held at the 2017 Power of Literacy Luncheon on October 24, 2017. Winner need not be present to win. Proceeds from the raffle benefit the educational initiatives of the Ladies for Literacy Guild. 

This special raffle was made possible thanks to the generosity of Barbara Bush and our friends at Tenenbaum Jewelers.