Geyer’s Oven (1259 Rohret Rd SW, Oxford) — Thursday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m.
Venture out into the spring weather at Geyer’s Oven west of Iowa City for an evening of all-you-can-eat pizza in support of the Iowa Youth Writing Project. The picnic starts at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow and is the first of three events called “Growing Voices” that aim to bring the community together to support the nonprofit’s mission of “growing children’s voices.”
Last year, around 900 kids attended events hosted by the Iowa Youth Writing Project, including weekly programs in the area and events across the state. Those efforts are supported by a “loving, peaceful army of around 200 volunteers,” said Lisa Roberts, the organization’s director of summer programming. Proceeds from Thursday’s picnic will go towards supplies and helping volunteers with travel expenses, she said.
“We strive to bring free literacy programs to children who wouldn’t normally get this kind of enrichment. We get kids inspired to love writing. I call it stealthy literacy; kids are so engaged in the activities they forget they are learning,” Roberts said.
Roberts said they hope to raise money to support increased programming, such as expanding opportunities to work with residential treatment centers for at-risk teens.
“Our kids camps are always very joyful and imaginative, but when we work with teens we can do more intensive work about identity and healing,” Roberts said. “It’s something we are really committed to, and we are approached all the time by centers, but resources are so scarce. I would hope this could give us the resources to say ‘yes.'”
Tickets are $15 for adults. Children 12 and under eat for free. People are invited to bring their own beer or wine, folding chairs and blankets and make themselves at home. Forecasts for tomorrow call for no more than a 20 percent chance of rain and a high of 70 degrees, but there is a large barn on the property where picnickers can take shelter and carry on with the festivities in the case of spring showers.
Although dates have not yet been set, other planned events in the “Growing Voices” series include a food truck gathering during the summer where children from the program’s summer camp can read their work and a multi-course dining experience in the fall.
Since its founding in 2010 by University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates, the Iowa Youth Writing Project has expanded to include an array of summer programs as well as weekly writing and activity workshops at local schools, community centers and residential treatment centers.
“We’re opening kids’ minds to new possibilities and inspiring them to believe in their own talents and their own skills,” Roberts said. “Every week something happens that reinvigorates me.”
More information about the Iowa Youth Writing Project’s summer writing camps and links to register can be found here.