On Thursday, Oct. 11, WordPlay Cincy hosted Nicola’s Legendary Dinner at Nicola’s restaurant in Historic OTR. Through ticket sales, a live auction and donations, attendees raised over $63,000 in giving to help WordPlay expand mobile programming and reach more students.
Now in its third year, Nicola's Legendary Dinner for WordPlay is a highly exclusive and impactful event, connecting some of Cincinnati's most influential professionals, philanthropists and community leaders to network with each other and support WordPlay in creating communities where young people discover, honor and share their voices. More than 100 people attended this year’s dinner, and 100% of proceeds from the dinner were donated to WordPlay.
“The positive energy of the evening was palpable,” WordPlay Executive Director Libby Hunter said. “Between people’s excitement to pull together for Cincinnati’s young people and their enjoyment of the space that Nicola’s restaurant has created, it really made the annual event feel like a family reunion.”
Attendees enjoyed an authentic five-course Italian dinner with wine pairings for each course, courtesy of Nicola’s and wineCRAFT. Auctioneer Penny Worley led the live auction, which included items such as a vintage typewriter, a vacation package to Cabo and tickets to the Mercantile Library’s sold-out Niehoff Lecture in November, where Margaret Atwood and Curtis Sittenfeld will be speaking.
During the main presentation, young students performed a portion of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, while WordPlay’s teen poets read original pieces and described the moment they knew they were a part of the WordPlay family. The students also described the different ways they access WordPlay’s programs, fitting with the theme of the evening; answers varied from walking to driving to taking the Metro bus.
“Not all families can access WordPlay at our Northside writing center, so we’ve come to realize over the years how essential it is to meet kids where they are. In our commitment to equity, it is therefore essential that we prioritize developing WordPlay’s mobile programming,” Hunter said. “Making this the focus of Nicola’s Legendary Dinner really underscores what a community effort this is, with our donors, volunteers, staff and families all working together. They absolutely exceeded all expectations.”
WordPlay’s fundraising goal was not only met, but surpassed, thanks to the generosity of all who helped make the event a success. Funds from the dinner will be invested in efforts to provide equitable access to WordPlay programs to hundreds more young people in Cincinnati.
“Education holds the power to profoundly change people’s lives. Our top priority at WordPlay is children’s happiness and fulfillment,” Nicola’s owner and WordPlay Board member Nicola Pietoso said. “Our goal is to develop youths into capable people who contribute to society in a way that is true to themselves. We strive to create an environment where every student has hope for their future, loves learning and believes that they have the ability to achieve their dreams.”
WordPlay is grateful to corporate partner for programs U.S. Bank and all of the sponsors who helped make the event a success: Nicola’s wineCRAFT Penny Worley Auctioneers Catherine Grace Photography Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati Joseph-Beth Booksellers The Mercantile Library Taste of Belgium