Spelling her way through 16 rounds of contestants was the easy part.
Now Richelle Zampella, who won the 2012 Eastern Oklahoma Spelling Bee in March, must find a way to get her family and an escort to the National Spelling Bee.
The Oklahoma School for the Blind fifth-grader won an expenses-paid trip for her and a parent — her mother — to attend the National Spelling Bee this Memorial Day weekend in Washington, D.C.
Local spelling bee promoters hope to raise money to let Richelle’s father and younger sister go, too, said Susan Hoog, coordinator of the Eastern Oklahoma bee.
A fund has been set up at Armstrong Bank’s east Muskogee branch. An anonymous donor is paying for some of the expenses, and a benefit car wash is planned for Saturday at My Place Bar-B-Q, Hoog said.
Richelle’s mother, Sheila Zampella, said of these efforts: “Oh, my God. It’s overwhelming in a good way. It lets you know people have been encouraging you.”
Richelle’s father, Joe Zampella, said the support his family received has been “unbelievably generous.”
“It makes you understand that people do care about the children,” he said. “We always thought every child deserves a chance.”
Richelle and her sister, Katelynn, 5, are vision impaired and attend OSB. Richelle uses Braille to learn her spelling words.
OSB spelling bee coordinator Cindy Lumpkin escorted Richelle on her many trips to the microphone during the Eastern Oklahoma Bee. Lumpkin said she also must go to escort Richelle at the national bee.
Richelle said she’s been busy boning up on her spelling words. She has a PACmate laptop computer with a Braille display and audio to help her learn the words.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or email@example.com.
How to help
You may send donations to Armstrong Bank, 3401 Chandler Road, care of “Eastern Oklahoma Spelling Bee.”
If you go
WHAT: Car wash benefiting Zampella family.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: My Place Bar-B-Q, 2021 Gibson St.