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Baseball Game ‘Critical’ to WLC’s Success

When David Clemons dropped out of school at age 16, he couldn’t even identify several of his family members’ names when they were written on paper.

He had never learned to read. His teachers told him that he didn’t want to learn.

About 12 years ago, he proved them wrong.

Clemons was at a very low point in his life –– he needed a job, but he wasn’t able to fill out an application. That’s when he decided to take a class with the Washington Literacy Council, a nonprofit that provides reading classes for adults in D.C., and that decision has changed his life.

“I learned that I was able to learn,” Clemons said. “I personally never thought I could learn to read.”

Before going to the WLC, Clemons needed help with simple, everyday tasks like reading his mail and grocery shopping –– and it was embarrassing, he said.

“Once they told me that it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t learn to read when I was in school, that changed a lot,” he said. “Once I started learning, I really didn’t want to stop.”

Clemons, who now works at the WLC as a student support specialist, said he is thrilled that part of the money raised by the Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game will go to the organization that has given him so much.

The WLC first got involved with the baseball game about 15 years ago.

“It’s been critical to our ability to continue the level of service to approximately 200 students each year, but also in recent years, it helped us expand our program,” Executive Director Elisabeth Liptak said.

She said the WLC received about $80,000 from last year’s game and used the money to create a new family literacy program, which helps parents and young children work together to learn to read, and to add a location in Southeast D.C. for the adult literacy program.

The organization hopes to use the money raised by this year’s game to expand its family literacy program, Liptak said.

“We are hoping to have many more sites because there’s a tremendous need,” she said. “So many adults tell us no one read to them as a child and there were no books at home. … [The program] helps the parents learn how to work with their child and a book. Very often that’s a new skill for them.”

Members of the group, including students, attend the baseball game every year.

“It’s always very exciting, and it’s a fun evening. I think everybody enjoys it,” Liptak said.

A WLC board member found a donor to provide the group with matching red-and-white T-shirts for the game, she said. She estimated that as many as 30 group members might attend.

The students especially enjoy it, she said, because it’s an activity that many of them don’t get to do very often.

“I think they really appreciate the fact that they are the beneficiaries of the game,” Liptak said. “They are very grateful.”

(A smaller percentage of the the game’s proceeds goes to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.)

She said her favorite part of the baseball game is speaking with the players afterward.

“They are all very proud of the money they’ve been able to raise,” she said. “They always come up and say, ‘I hope we did a good job this year.’”

The WLC keeps the Members informed of the progress it makes with students and even meets with the Members personally to tell them how the organization benefits from the money raised by the game, according to a joint statement issued by the teams’ managers, Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.).

The game is “a great way for Members of Congress to give back to the city and make a difference in the lives of its residents,” the statement said.

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