Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary School kicked off its third annual school-wide Read-a-Thon on Friday with a visit from Arizona Cardinal Jeremy Bridges and the team mascot, Big Red.

For the past three years, the Estrella PTO and staff members at the school have actively tried to encourage reading with a kick-off event with a local celebrity or pro athlete. The Read-a-Thon takes place over the week of Feb. 27 to March 2.

“When you tell the athlete that it’s for the kids with the goal of getting them to read more, it’s pretty easy to convince them to come out,” Estrella PTO president Melissa Felder said. “And seeing these athletes really motivates them to follow through with their reading.”

Last year the Read-a-Thon netted close to $1,000 with students taking pledges from their friends and family members. This year is the first time that it has only lasted a week, which Felder said would intensify each individual day. Additionally, the school will announce daily winners of who had the most the day before.

Bridges took the stage with Big Red at the school-wide assembly on Friday afternoon and talked and fielded a barrage of questions.

“Reading is so important,” he said. “It leads to more important things, later in life. You need to be able to read.”

The assembly also featured a Minute-to-Win-It type of game in which Bridges competed against three Estrella staff members.

The money raised in the event will go toward revitalizing the school’s Reading Garden and possibly adding a vegetable garden that the students can work in for class projects.

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