Perrysburg couple partners for BGSU’s Literacy in Park PDF Print E-mail
Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 27 March 2014 10:35
Joe and Judith Conda pose with some of the books written by authors who have been featured at BGSU’s Literacy in the Park. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Judith and Joe Conda lavish their time, talent and treasure on dozens of organizations - they call them jewels - around the area.
Bowling Green State University could be the crown jewel, in the Perrysburg couple's opinion.
The Condas have set up scholarships, serve on boards there and are the main sponsors of Literacy in the Park, which is in its 10th year.
Their partnership with BGSU started a few years after they moved to the area when Joe Conda took a job with Owens-Illinois.
"We came in 1988. In 1993, my mother moved here with my sister, who was developmentally handicapped," Judith Conda said. "I became very involved with Wood Lane."
As they got to know the Wood Lane staff, the Condas kept seeing a common thread: Almost all of them were BGSU graduates, interns or students.
They established a scholarship for Wood Lane staff members who were also BGSU students.
"And you know how things snowball," Judith Conda said.
They were asked in 2009 to help with Literacy in the Park, which brings a well-known children's author to campus for a free event with area kids. This year's program features Eric Litwin (Click here to view story.), and will be held April 5 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Stroh Center.
Joe Conda said they were "novices" with the first "park."
"Each year has gotten better and better and better," Judith Conda said.
Some of the children's authors and illustrators who have visited Bowling Green include "Arthur" author Marc Brown, "Bad Kitty's" Nick Bruel, "Biscuit" creator Alyssa Capucilli and Anna Dewdney who did the "Sheep in the Jeep" series.
The Condas' role has expanded this year. They usually take the author to breakfast and watch the crowds - visitors numbered over 2,000 last year - move through the "park."
For 2014, through contacts with the Toledo Opera, they're bringing in four singers who will be in costume and do "flash mob" performances. Other booths will be staffed by the Toledo Zoo, Imagination Station, WBGU-TV and the Wood County District Public Library. Students at the Toledo School of Arts have created a giant Pete the Cat with a moving tail.
"We wanted to expand it so it wasn't just the printed word," Judith Conda said.
There will be 28 stations, with many focused on different types of literacy - digital, emotional, musical and nutrition. The lunch menu has also been revamped, with a healthy focus. Turkey hot dogs, topped off with a yogurt bar for dessert, will be served.
They've also reached out to area schools, sending each elementary in Wood County a "Pete the Cat" book and teacher's pack.
That's the ultimate goal: to touch children. And they have. Framed thank-you cards and notes from the children who attended past "parks" hang in the office of their Perrysburg home.
The couple were born and raised in Burlington, N.J. But the relationships that they developed at Wood Lane, BGSU and other groups have cemented their ties in Northwest Ohio.
Wood Lane, especially, filled a role for the family when Judith Conda's mother suffered a medical emergency a couple years after moving to Ohio. Judith Conda made the difficult decision to move her sister, Patty, into in a group home so she could become her mother's primary caregiver. It was a decision Judith Conda never regretted.
"I just can't say enough about Wood Lane and what they did for our family. They let me be her sister and not her caregiver," she said.
Judith Conda serves on various boards including Wood Lane, TSA and the zoo. She retired in 2003 as a behavior specialist from Rossford and Perrysburg schools.
Joe Conda is on the foundation board at BGSU, where he is chairman of the investment committee. He's president of H.D. Smith Specialty Solutions, with offices in Cincinnati, Chicago and Springfield, Ill.
"It's really exciting when you do things for the zoo, TSA and Bowling Green. You really see the value that folks get. You can just see it in their faces," Joe Conda said.
Being a bystander at Literacy in the Park is one of his favorite things to do. He loves watching the families interact, especially the paternal connection.
"You have that perception that men aren't involved. That's what we can't get over: the men pushing the strollers at Literacy in the Park," he said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 March 2014 11:26

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