Scavenge the Ave: Hunting for Literacy 

Scavenge the Ave participants gathering supplies
  • Jennifer Troemner
  • Scavenge the Ave participants gathering supplie.s

More than 150 seekers of all ages gathered June 13 for the fourth annual Scavenge the Ave, a scavenger hunt through businesses and other points of interest along Mass Ave. NUVO was stoked to be a headline sponsor of the event, which acted as a fundraiser for Indy Reads, promoting literacy awareness while encouraging participants to shop local and get in touch with the community.

Seekers began their quest at the Athenaeum, where they received their instructions, a special bookmark and a list of riddles. Looking at the list, a participant might have found something to the tune of: "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true: where can I go to buy a cycle with one wheel or two?" And after a few minutes of humming "Daisy Bell," they'd then stumble across Bikes on Mass Ave.

One of the event's only issues was that too many businesses were interested in participating this year - "Not that that's a problem!" said Katie Lindahl Smith, board member of Indy Reads and the chair of the Literary Advocacy Committee.

Because so many businesses took part, they had to be divided among several different lists in order for all of them to be represented. Joining the festivities provided many of these businesses some great exposure.

"It's a win/win," organizer Lindahl Smith said. "It costs businesses nothing, people get to enjoy Mass Ave and they support a good cause."

Scavenge the Ave

Inside Bikes on Mass Ave, intrepid adventurers found a pair of volunteers waiting for them, marker in hand, ready to sign them off as having found one of their destinations. But first our participant had to answer another question: "What percentage of adults can't read at or above a sixth grade reading level?"

Among those who didn't already know, the answer shocked them: a whopping 20 percent. Each destination had its volunteers who asked a different literacy related trivia question. According to Lindahl Smith, the trivia "creates one long mission moment - participants are constantly reminded what they're supporting."

And that thing they were supporting was Indy Reads, which provides free tutoring to adults who are struggling with illiteracy. The $12-$15 registration fee went to help fund the organization, which receives no direct government funding. All of Indy Reads' bills are paid by grants and donations, and consequently the overwhelming majority of its services are provided by volunteers. More than 40 of those volunteers donated their time and energy to Scavenge the Ave, where the majority of them acted as 'site-sitters' at the 26 participating locations.

Scavenge the Ave

As the night drew to a close, the valiant scavenger hunters returned to the Athenaeum, where they received raffle tickets in exchange for the signatures they'd collected around Mass Ave, as well as receipts for purchases they'd made over the course of the hunt. Those tickets were entered into a raffle drawing for more than 36 separate prizes, featuring everything from T-shirts to prize packs to gift certificates for local stores. But Indy Reads itself brought home the biggest prize by raising awareness of the adult illiteracy problem.

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Jennifer Troemner

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