Highlights from Storybook Ball 2022

November 9, 2022

United Through Reading’s 14th annual Storybook Ball was a memorable evening. The gala took place last weekend in San Diego bringing together nearly three hundred corporate executives, senior military leaders, long-time supporters, and military families to celebrate the connections United Through Reading enables for military service members, no matter their distance. We are thrilled to announce $265,000 was raised during the event to support military families. Here’s a few highlights from the evening. 

Storybook Ball Welcome

Tim Farrell, our new CEO, addressed the crowd at his first major event since joining United Through Reading. He was greeted with a spectacular Storybook Ball welcome! Farrell said, “Deployments and separations continue to be a reality for military families. Every year, thousands of military parents deploy, leaving nearly 200,000 children at home. We know that being read to by a parent helps children feel connected to their loved one while growing their literacy skills; and using UTR can reduce stress and anxiety that children experience when that parent is away.”

Military Families’ Stories

San Diego based Navy Seal spouse, Maggie Worthington, shared how United Through Reading has helped their family and the rest of their special warfare community stay connected during frequent deployments. She said, “My seven year old is about to experience her 6th deployment, and my two year old is going on her second. Being able to tuck my kids in at night, and provide that glimpse of normalcy during a six month deployment with dad reading a book at night means the world to our family, and we cannot thank United Through Reading enough for providing that.” 

UTR Volunteer Spotlight

Navy Sailor CS2(SW) Robert Franklin “Frankie” Hard, III also took center stage to share his story. Frankie is a rockstar volunteer with over 200 hours at United Through Reading since 2019, and his ship, USS Essex, had the most recordings in 2021, with more than 600 stories sent home! He said, “I have had a once in a lifetime experience to provide families an experience that many of us didn’t have growing up. On the USS Essex alone, we provided over 600 families an experience that cannot be replicated.”

Awards Presentations

The evening included a presentation of the Audrey Geisel Friend of Military Children Award to Make your Bed with Skipper the Seal by ADM William H. McRaven, USN (Ret). In the book, a seal becomes a Navy SEAL in this children’s adaptation of the #1 New York Times bestselling Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World. McRaven and “Skipper the seal” teach young readers to overcome obstacles, deal with failure, take risks, persevere in tough times, and become a better person. Learn more https://youtu.be/LOsoXXnh7CA

USAA was presented with the Military Family Leadership Award. Retired Command Master Chief David Dearie, USAA military affairs representative, accepted the award. He said, “On behalf of USAA’s CEO, Wayne Peacock, and our 38K employees, I express deep gratitude and appreciation as I accept this honor and thank UTR for the part you play in our nation’s freedom.”

Guests of Honor in Attendance 

United Through Reading was honored to host our military Guests of Honor, VADM Kenneth Whitesell, USN, Commander, Naval Air Force, US Pacific Command and Mrs. Melodye Whitesell.

The Whitesells shared how their family has used United Through Reading throughout their time in the Navy to stay connected with their children. In particular The Kissing Hand has special meaning for their daughter, as VADM Whitesell read it to her as a child during deployments. Melodye invited everyone in the ballroom to put a heart on their hand and send a kiss to their daughter who is serving the Navy on the other side of the world today. 

Saying Goodbye to Sally

Dr. Sally Ann Zoll, United Through Reading’s retiring CEO, was honored at Storybook Ball 2022 for her 16 years at the organization. Sally shared her gratitude to the board, staff, and her family for their support of her over her career. In a video played at the gala Dr. Zoll said, “The fact that we have been able to reach all branches of service, but also the numbers we have been able to reach, I think is incredible. We’ve reached 2.7 million military family members and we have 200 locations around the world. I think that has a huge impact on our military.”

She added, “I am going to miss waking up every morning knowing that I have an amazing staff to work with, knowing that I have a fantastic board, knowing that I have the opportunity to work with military families and share my incredible passion with them. I am going to miss that more than anything in the world.” Thank you, Sally, for your leadership and dedication to our military families. Dr. Sally Ann Zoll Retires


Thank you, Sponsors

Storybook Ball wouldn’t be possible without the support of our sponsors including Reader’s Digest Foundation, our READiness365 Keynote Sponsor, and our READiness365 sponsors; Veterans United Foundation, BAE Systems, Dollar General Literacy Foundation, USAA, Carter’s Charitable Foundation and Gillette. Our Tribute Sponsors for the evening were Epsilon, Kratos, Northrop Grumman, Cynthia & John Curiel, and Carl & Ashley Ryden. Our Supporting Sponsors were Amazon, American Freedom Foundation, Boeing, Cisco, General Atomics Aeronautical, Sunbelt Rentals, Sycuan, Mayor Sharon Cox & Supervisor Greg Cox; and Gregg & Denise Steinhafel. ur Dedication to Service Sponsors were Buchanan Brand & Design, RADM & Mrs. Fran Holian, USN (Ret); Mr. & Mrs. Dwayne Junker, USN (Ret); Mr. Scott Kuyper & Mrs. Anne Murphy,;Mr. & Mrs. Stephen P. Swinton, and Dr. Andrew Viterbi.

Check out more photos from Storybook Ball 2022 at utr.org