Normally the Red Balloon Award recipients are not revealed prior to the gala. Let’s go with the saying that only fools don’t ever change their mind!

2019 Literacy Gala Honorees:

 Ted Adams – Keynote Speaker

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Without Ted Adams, there’s a great chance Traveling Stories would still be a passion project run by volunteers. Co-founder of IDW Publishing and Clover Press, Ted joined the Traveling Stories board of directors in 2015. At that time, the organization had no paid staff and an annual budget of less than $40,000. Ted immediately got IDW Publishing involved, which eventually opened the door for Traveling Stories to collaborate with San Diego Comic-Con. Ted also connected Traveling Stories with Humble Bundle, its largest corporate donor to date. Today, Traveling Stories has six paid staff and an annual budget of $550,000.

Ted’s leadership on the board was  instrumental to strategic decisions including hiring key staff, implementing more sophisticated accounting practices, and shifting focus from international impact to local impact, which allowed for exponential StoryTent growth. Although Ted will step down from the board of directors when his term ends in November, he said he is proud of his involvement with Traveling Stories and will continue to support the organization’s mission.

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Kris Moberly – Lifetime Achievement Award

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One could argue that there would be no Traveling Stories without Kris Moberly. Not only did she raise our founder, Emily, to be an avid lover of books, but she also dedicated countless hours of time to help turn Emily’s vision for Traveling Stories into reality. Kris was an early adopter and Volunteer #1 – which probably wasn’t always easy, since it sometimes meant taking orders from her oldest daughter.

In the early days, Kris and her husband provided storage for the thousands of books that Traveling Stories collected for its first World Libraries. Kris helped packed over 1,500 books to ship to South Sudan. She helped run the first StoryTent program in City Heights, arriving early every Saturday morning with the canopy, carpets, and books. To this day, many kids and parents at City Heights still ask for Kris.

Her willingness to volunteer for everything and her can-do attitude made it possible for Traveling Stories to say “yes” to more opportunities like Art Walk, Earth Day, and eventually this gala. But what is most special about Kris is her ability to connect with people and make them feel like they belong. Whether she is talking to donors at an event or helping a reluctant reader discover the joy of a story that she’s picked out just for him, Kris embodies everything about the Traveling Stories mission that attracts us all. She notices people and believes in them. She makes reading fun. She shows you that anything is possible, and that even though the journey is hard, you’re not alone.

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Mohammed Almahdawe – Red Balloon Award

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An El Cajon StoryTent reader since 2017, 13-year old Mohammed Almahdawe impressed the Traveling Stories team every week when he arrived at the program with a tote bag full to the brim with books to read.

Before coming to the StoryTent, Mohammed viewed reading as work and an obligation. But the program prizes motivated Mohammed to read for months until he accumulated enough to purchase a skateboard for $250 Book Bucks. He said that was one of his proudest moments.

Eventually, Mohammed stopped asking for Book Bucks because he fell in love with reading and started viewing the stories as the real prize. A month after he turned 13, Mohammed applied to become a volunteer at the StoryTent. Since February 2019 Mohammed has volunteered over 27 hours at the StoryTent and helped inspire younger kids to read for fun. His playful personality encourages even the most reluctant readers to break out of their shell and express themselves through stories while making friends in the process.

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