The artwork of 9-year-old Joel Nigro from Black Elk Elementary in Millard was selected from several thousand entries to be the official bookmark for the Omaha Storm Chasers “Hit the Books” literacy program.
His winning entry included mascots Stormy, Vortex and Casey all appearing to run around the bases at Werner Park.
The Storm Chasers planned a schoolwide assembly at Black Elk to make the announcement. The Kansas City Royals Caravan came to celebrate with Joel, too. Billy Butler, a 2012 American League All-Star, and Royals Hall of Famer John Mayberry along with Royals Pitcher of the Year Greg Holland and recent Storm Chasers standout second baseman Johnny Giavotella showed up to support Joel and the “Hit the Books” program.
The Royals presented Joel with two seats from Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
“I have never accomplished something this big; it feels really good,” Joel said. “It was awesome to be sitting next to Billy Butler in the stadium seats. I never thought that would happen when I won the contest. I play baseball and am a big Royals fan. This is one of my best memories.”
Since 2007, the Omaha Storm Chasers “Hit the Books” literacy program, presented by Nebraska Educational Savings Trust and Sump Memorial Library in Papillion, has encouraged area elementary students to “Hit the Books” to show them that reading is an essential skill.
The program reaches more than 13,000 students and 750 teachers at 40 schools in the Omaha metro area.
Students who complete the program this year can earn the bookmark created by Joel, a pencil, a ruler and a prize pack that includes a ticket to a Storm Chasers game.