Author Archives: Cortni O'Brien


The 10th Annual Climb for Literacy

The 10th Annual Climb for Literacy Event to Benefit Two Literacy-related Causes in Eagle County

Internationally renowned mountaineer Ellen Miller continues to use her unique talents and sense of purpose to give generously to her community. Ellen’s “Climb for Literacy” fundraiser is celebrating its 10th year. She created the event in 2008 with a desire to help children channel their passion for climbing in a way that gave back to their community by raising funds for local literacy programs.

The 10th Annual Climb for Literacy will take place on November 14 and 15 at the Vail Vitality Center at the Vail Mountain Lodge.

“I created Climb for Literacy 10 years ago because I love climbing and I love the Vail Valley,” explained Miller, the first American woman to summit Mt. Everest from both the north and the south sides. “I wanted to teach young climbers that they could use their skills to help other people. In essence, it’s kids climbing to help other kids.”

From the beginning, The Climb for Literacy has benefitted several organizations, both locally and internationally. This year’s event will benefit two local groups: The Literacy Project of Eagle County and the Vail Pet Partners Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program.

As Miller explained, “I chose the Literacy Project of Eagle County and the Vail Pet Partners programs because I believe they are a natural fit. And, we know that the several thousand dollars we raise can have a genuine impact in supporting literacy right here in Eagle County.”

Colleen Gray, Executive Director of The Literacy Project, concurs. “The Literacy Project volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization,” said Gray. “We currently have 75 Eagle County middle school students paired with Literacy Project volunteers through our Study Friends program.” The Study Friends program helps academically at-risk middle school students gain the skills they need to better meet the academic and social demands of school. “A donation of $100 provides the initial training for one Study Friends tutor.”

This year, the Vail Athletic Club climbing team will climb vertical feet on an indoor climbing wall for donations, while adults from Miller’s outdoor fitness groups will climb actual mountains to raise funds for the causes. Donors can sponsor a climber to contribute toward the event.

“Community members can sponsor the Climb for Literacy any way they’d like,” said Miller, “Whether it’s a flat donation or a per foot vertical donation, there aren’t any strict guidelines.”

Call Ellen Miller to Sponsor a climber at 970-389-5392.


What: The 10th Annual Climb for Literacy Fundraiser

Where: Vail Athletic Club, 352 E. Meadow Drive in Vail Village

When: November 14 and 15, 6:00-8:00 pm each day

Cost: Varies. The public is invited to sponsor a climber to raise funds for The Literacy Project of Eagle County and the Vail Pet Partners R.E.A.D. programs

More information: Call Ellen Miller at 970-389-5392


The Literacy Project Annual Luncheon


Mike Johnston grew up in Eagle County, where his family owns the Christiana Lodge. Earlier this year, he announced his candidacy for Governor of Colorado.

Johnston has a passion for education—a passion that was ignited when he served as a Teach for America teacher in the Mississippi Delta in 1997. For his keynote address at The Literacy Project’s Annual Luncheon Fundraiser on June 29, Johnston will address the future of education in Colorado. Continue reading


Volunteer Spotlight: Rebekah Zenor

Rebekah Zenor is a self-described “jack of all hobbies and master of none.” While the New Hampshire transplant has dedicated her working hours to the Slifer Smith and Frampton real estate team for 9 years, she takes a more extemporaneous approach to her free time. “I dabble in everything,” said Rebekah. “Sailing, hiking, climbing, volunteering, swimming, travelling, skiing, rugby, biking, and golfing. By keeping things moving, I never get bored!”

The Literacy Project of Eagle County is especially grateful for the “volunteering” component of Rebekah’s dabbling. For 6 years now, Zenor has helped to organize The Literacy Project’s largest fundraising event of the year, their annual luncheon and silent auction. Her duties vary each year, from creating name tents and organizing the guest list, to facilitating the check-in process at the event. Continue reading


Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Osterberg

Linda Osterberg has owned Mount-N-Frame in Vail for over 30 years. She started as a part-time picture framer, and ended up buying the business. She has practiced yoga for many years, and teaches yoga on a part-time basis. In her spare time, Linda hikes, skis, and bikes. In November, she also became a volunteer with The Literacy Project of Eagle County’s one-to-one tutoring program. Continue reading


Volunteer Spotlight: Laurie Blickenstaff

Volunteer Laurie Blickenstaff (left), pictured here with fellow Literacy Project volunteer Jackie Stockwell and BCMS Guidance Counselor Nita Kirwan, is a new addition to The Literacy Project volunteer team, but she is not new to The Literacy Project. “After working in the title insurance industry for several years, I decided to put my teaching license to use and teach middle school,” said Laurie.  “I taught middle school with Eagle County Schools for five years, and during that time I saw what a huge impact The Literacy Project’s Study Friends program had on our students.”  Continue reading


Volunteer Spotlight: Karen Zavis

Karen Zavis has been a volunteer tutor with The Literacy Project’s Study Friends program for six years. The Study Friends program is designed to help middle school students improve their reading, writing, math, and homework skills by pairing them with a trained adult volunteer tutor, though Karen is the first to tell you that Study Friends is not just about homework help.

“Tutoring goes beyond the completion of school assignments,” said Karen. “Developing good life skills, particularly in organization and time management, are critical to school success.” Continue reading


Volunteer Spotlight: Melanie Dennis

The Literacy Project of Eagle County has named Melanie Dennis to the nonprofit’s board of directors.

“With her unique background in education and real estate, Melanie has much to offer in her new leadership position on The Literacy Project’s board,” said Colleen Gray, Executive Director of The Literacy Project. “Her career keeps her embedded deeply in the Eagle County community, and she has the community’s greatest interests and future at heart.” Continue reading


Reading Buddies Spring 2017

A partnership between The Literacy Project and the Eagle Valley Library District, the Reading Buddies program pairs teen volunteers with younger kids for an hour of one-on-one shared reading, once a week!

The Reading Buddies program is for Little Buddies (students in grades 1-3) and Big Buddies (teen mentors in grades 9-12). Buddy pairs read together, play reading-based games, and participate in group activities. The purpose of Reading Buddies is to provide leadership, responsibility, and community service opportunities for high school mentors while helping to foster a love of reading in elementary school students.

You can participate in Reading Buddies at either the Avon, Eagle or Gypsum Public Libraries. Sessions meet once a week for 8 weeks. Register a Big Buddy or a Little Buddy today!

Link to Little Buddy Application (English)
Link to Little Buddy Application (Spanish)
Link to Big Buddy Application

Winter/Spring 2017 Reading Buddies Program Dates:

Gypsum Public Library
Thursday, March 9 – April 27
4:30 – 5:30 pm

Eagle Public Library
Thursdays, February 23 – April 13
4:30 – 5:30 pm

Avon Public Library
Wednesday, February 22 – April 12
4:30 – 5:30 pm

Space is limited. For more information or to sign-up please contact:

Nick at the Gypsum Public Library (970) 524-5080
Dale at the Eagle Public Library (970) 328-8800
Cathy at the Avon Public Library (970) 949-6797


Volunteer Spotlight: Randy Schroeder

In his 14 years of volunteering with The Literacy Project, Randy Schroeder has helped 19 middle-school students with their reading, homework, and English as a Second Language skills.

Randy lives in Gypsum, and his day job is with San Isabel Telecom. In giving back to the community in such a profound and lasting way, Randy is following in his own father’s footsteps.

“My father, Earl D. Schroeder, was an amazing man, a WWII veteran and a member to the aptly named ‘Greatest Generation,'” said Randy. “While he was stationed in Korea in the 1960s, he ran across and ‘adopted’ 120 kids in an orphanage. Completely on his own initiative, he advocated back stateside for the little ones, raised funds to bring piped-in water, improve the school and dormitory buildings, and purchase livestock (pigs, chickens, cows) to help them become self-sufficient. This was typical for him. He sponsored and coordinated the immigration of over 60 Cambodians fleeing persecution in their native country.”

Randy’s father went on to serve as a Boy Scout troop leader for 20 years.
In his 14 years with The Literacy Project, Randy has also made considerable impact on his Eagle County community. Continue reading


Make a Difference in 2017!

Make a New Year’s resolution to make a difference in 2017! The Literacy Project of Eagle County needs adult volunteer tutors to work with adults through our one-to-one tutoring program, and teens through our Study Friends program. Our students are seeking help with their reading, writing, math, or English language skills. Continue reading