Kirby Field House buzzed with anticipation as H-SC faculty, staff, and student volunteers awaited the arrival of nearly 1,200 local second graders in late February. The scene inside the gymnasium was a bit different from the usual sea of garnet and gray clad fans cheering the Tigers on to victory. Cherished scenes and familiar quotes from Dr. Seuss’s iconic canon transformed Kirby into a wild and wacky wonderland that celebrated the famed author’s birthday and his enduring contributions to childhood literacy.
Familiar characters such as the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, and Things One and Two wandered the courts and halls ready to delight and entertain the young scholars. Playing the role of Thing One, Sandy Cooke, H-SC’s director of student affairs operations and civic engagement, was blown away by the students’ reactions. “As I walked by groups of students, I saw them light up because they were meeting their storybook heroes,” Cooke exclaimed. “It was a fun day for kids and adults alike.”
Mrs. Lesley Stimpert, wife of College President Larry Stimpert, introduced the Dr. Seuss Birthday Bash during her inaugural year at Hampden-Sydney. Students who attend the event not only participate in games, obstacle courses, and bounce houses, but also choose their very own party favor from a selection of seven classic Seuss books.
Although the event is relatively new, Hampden-Sydney has long been dedicated to promoting literacy in the local community. As College president and first lady, Dr. and Mrs. Walter M. Bortz III established early reading campaigns more than 20 years ago. Historically, each college president since has gone into the schools to gift dictionaries to local second graders.
A long-time children’s librarian, Mrs. Stimpert wanted to put a special spin on what the Bortzes began. Thus, the Dr. Seuss Birthday Bash was born. Hosting the action-packed event on campus expands H-SC’s established literacy outreach in two important ways.
First, the field trip to Hampden-Sydney’s campus is some students’ first exposure to a college campus. Giving the children an opportunity to experience a college campus and to interact with current H-SC students firsthand creates a tangible, positive association with college.