The Marshall – Harrison County Literacy Council is gearing up for its 19th annual corporate spelling bee fundraiser event this Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Due to safety issues surrounding COVID-19 the event will be held virtually this year, according to Executive Director Karen Bickerdike, who said that each of the eight teams will be gathering on Zoom along with the word caller and judges.

Community members are still able to view the event through a Facebook live stream on the group’s page at www.facebook.com/marshallliteracy and will still be able to support their team and win the coveted spirit stick.

Bickerdike said that instead of giving out the spirit stick this year based on who has the largest and loudest fan base in attendance, this year community members can compete for the prize by commenting and sharing the live stream and specifying their favorite team.

Each comment and share for specific teams will gain that team points, which will be tallied at the end of the competition.

“We are so excited,” Bickerdike said, “We are thinking of this much more as an opportunity than as a challenge to overcome.”

She said that with the event streamed live online a number of community members who were not able or comfortable with attending in person are able to enjoy the event and support the literacy council from home.

“We can have people who are maybe stuck in the office, or even that just moved out of town, who are still able to enjoy the event,” she said.

The event usually has $15 tickets, which include a catered lunch from Subway during the event. Bickerdike said that this year instead of a catered meal community members can still buy tickets for $15 which they can bring to Subway on Friday in exchange for a box lunch.

Anyone interested in purchasing tickets can contact Bickerdike at the Literacy Council at (903) 935-0962.

“It is our hope that they go and pick up their lunches, then go home and tune into the event while they sit and enjoy,” she said.

Defending champion team from the last three years, the Greater Marshall Chamber of Commerce, will be competing with a new line up this year after one of their regular competitors, Michael Smith, could not participate this year.

Team member Tim Huff said that this will not slow them down though, and that they are looking forward to adding a fourth win to the teams list of victories.

“It’s so much fun to participate in the competition, and for such a good cause,” Director of the chamber Stacia Runnels said.

“Yes, but we are also going to win,” Huff responded.

Both Huff and Runnels said that they are excited for the competition, and look forward to participating in the annual event once again.

“Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Marshall knows that this is the most generous community,” Bickerdike said. “Whenever they see a need, they fix it.”

She said that it is because of this generosity, and the support for this annual event, that the literacy council has been able to offer their adult literacy programs for free for the last 30 years.

Bickerdike added that the organization is always looking for more tutors to volunteer their time for the program, and that anyone interested in getting involved with the Literacy Council is welcome to contact their office at (903) 935-0962.