Ronde and Tiki Barber Team Up for Virginia Literacy Foundation

    RICHMOND, Va., June 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Ronde and Tiki Barber, NFL
 standouts and Roanoke natives, have been named Verizon Literacy Champions to
 benefit the Virginia Literacy Foundation.
     Graduates of the University of Virginia, the Barber brothers are returning
 to help their home state improve literacy levels.  They will appear on a
 poster to be used to raise public awareness about the issue and encourage
 businesses and individuals to get involved through donations or volunteerism.
     A photo session was held today in Roanoke to produce images for the
 Virginia Literacy Champion poster to be introduced to the public this fall.
 The poster will be distributed throughout Virginia as part of a year-long
 Verizon campaign to benefit the Virginia Literacy Foundation and its
 affiliates statewide.
     An estimated 700,000 adult Virginians do not have high school diplomas.
 According to the U.S. Department of Education, another million who have
 diplomas lack basic literacy skills.
     "We are extremely pleased that Tiki and Ronde have joined the cause for
 literacy in Virginia and will help us reach out to all who cannot read well
 and encourage them to link up with one of the many literacy providers in the
 Commonwealth," stated Jeannie P. Baliles, former First Lady of Virginia and
 chairperson of the Virginia Literacy Foundation.  "Verizon has been extremely
 supportive of literacy efforts in Virginia, and this new venture is a
 testament to their commitment to be 'America's Literacy Champion.' "
     "On NFL Sundays Tiki and I are on different sides of the ball, but when it
 comes to supporting literacy we are one team," stated Ronde Barber, defensive
 back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a 1997 graduate of the University of
 Virginia.  "I am involved in the literacy cause in Tampa, and am happy to be
 part of the Virginia Literacy Champion program here at home."
     The Literacy Champions program is part of the nationwide Verizon Reads
 literacy awareness campaign where Verizon partners with celebrities and
 statewide literacy organizations like the Virginia Literacy Foundation to give
 literacy a familiar face, bring attention to a critical issue, and raise
 awareness and funds for the cause of literacy.  They will also promote
 Verizon's customer donation program, "Check into Literacy."  This program
 allows Verizon's Virginia customers to contribute $1 a month to literacy
 through their phone bill -- which benefits the Virginia Literacy Foundation.
     "We want to help kids and adults alike get the skills they need to have
 successful and happy lives," commented Tiki Barber, running back for the New
 York Giants and a 1997 graduate of the University of Virginia.  "I've helped
 in the literacy cause in New York, and am so glad to be able to help the
 Virginia Literacy Foundation with this new program for my home state."
     The Virginia Literacy Foundation, founded in 1987, is the nation's oldest
 statewide literacy initiative.  Its mission is to help illiterate Virginians
 learn to read.  For the past 10 years, the Foundation has supported family
 literacy programs, which help both parent and child learn to read.  Since its
 inception, the Virginia Literacy Foundation, backed by generous corporate,
 private, and government gifts and grants has distributed millions of dollars
 in grants to local literacy efforts across the Commonwealth.
     The Verizon Reads Literacy Champion Program was established in 1998 and
 has raised millions of dollars for literacy programs across the country.
 Verizon Reads is a comprehensive national campaign of corporate philanthropy,
 customer outreach, employee participation and corporate partner collaboration.
 
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SOURCE Virginia Literacy Foundation
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