Awesome, bay-bee! Storytime with Dick Vitale
When you're sick, it's nice to have a friendly face by your side. If your friend has a few catchphrases and is a relentlessly positive thinker, all the better. Kids at All Children's Hospital made a friend Thursday morning when ESPN superstar Dick Vitale stopped by for storytime. The iconic hoops broadcaster and Sarasota resident has written a children's book, Dickie V's ABC's and 1-2-3's: A Great Start for Young Superstars. He joined a group of kids in the hospital's auditorium to give a pep talk and a dramatic reading of his book. All the children received free, autographed copies of the book compliments of Merrill Lynch and Bank of America and also Vitale himself (400 copies of the book were donated for young patients at the hospital; Vitale has had a long-term relationship with All Children's and is donating his earnings from the book to help fund pediatric cancer research.).
I took the Little Koala to meet her first celebrity. We had to be on the All Kids campus anyway for a regular feeding therapy session, so we went a little early to catch Dickie V. Most of the kids there were about 5 years old or so, so the Koala was the littlest one. Kids perched in a semicircle on colorful beanbag chairs, on little loveseats with their parents and on the floor. The Koala shared her beanbag with another little girl, who helped her read the book and turn the pages until the star arrived.
The great thing about Vitale is how sincere he is. You could see him immediately connect with his young audience. First off, he told them everyone who makes it into the Hall of Fame is surrounded by other Hall-of-Famers. He didn't connect the dots for the kids, and he didn't need to for the adults. The message was clear: The most successful people surround themselves with other talented people and together reach heights none could reach alone. It made me feel so hopeful for the Koala -- she is an amazing little person (in my opinion!) and at All Children's I do feel she is surrounded by great doctors, nurses and caregivers in every field.
He pulled a little girl up front to help him as he read the book. She wasn't qui-i-i-i-i-i-te a reader yet, but Vitale didn't let that slow them down. She identified the pictures, he said the words, and they zipped through the alphabet lickety-split. I think he skipped a page or two, but who's counting? When he got to J is for Jump, he told a boy to demonstrate his jump -- and then, all the kids were jumping. I don't think Vitale was expecting that, but he's an experienced sportcaster so was quite able to go with the flow. Other action words (R is for Run, Y is for Yell) also got the young blood flowing. Between the encouragement and energy of Dickie V, and the book's magic orange buttons to press, the kids were entertained. And at least one hoops-loving momma was entranced too.
You couldn't spend a morning with Dickie V and not talk a little basketball, of course. He noticed a little girl wearing a Kentucky T-shirt and told her they had lost the night before, and he reminded the kids to watch TV on Saturday when he brings his colorful commentary to a game featuring the number one team in the country, Duke, at Virginia Tech.
Vitale's book is a clever addition to the ABCs genre. There are no A is for Apple cliches here. A is for Awesome -- of course, and B is for Baby. C is for Cheer, and D is for Dunk. Every page also has a collection of other words that start with that letter. Along the bottom are colorful basketballs to count out the page number. But what really gives the book personality is Dickie V himself. Wacky little illustrations of Vitale -- dancing, broadcasting, getting an X-ray -- add humor and humanity. But wait, there's more: There's an orange button that looks like a basketball on the book's top right corner. With the press of a kid's stubby little finger, Vitale's voice booms, "You're awesome, baby, with a capital A," or "You and me, what a team!" or "You're a superstar, baby!" The Koala can't read yet, but she dug that button, let me tell you. (By afternoon, I have to admit, it was time for "naptime" for the book at our house, if you catch my drift.)
Now the Koala and the Monkey are in bed, and the book's all mine. I'm a Superstar, bay-bee!