Raleigh Teens’ Books Reveal Strength in Tackling Adversity

From Death to Dyslexia, Teens Write From the Heart


Published:

Raleigh resident Aidan Colvin, pictured above with comedian Jay Leno, is the author of "Looking for Heroes: One Boy, One Year, 100 Letters."

Photo courtesy of Liisa Ogburn

Life can throw children heart-wrenching obstacles — the death of a parent and dyslexia, for example — but two teens with Triangle roots have reached deep into themselves to share stories of how they faced these trials and move forward to embrace their future. Their books, written with brutal honesty and published this year, offer hope to other children and parents who are trying to cope with similar difficulties.

Facing Death

“Steadfast,” written by Raleigh native Isabella Pirola, is a children’s book that tells the story of an oak tree that suffers but remains caring and kind, offering protection to a family of birds until its death. Illustrations by Hilary Tucker accompany each page of text, revealing the sadness of the birds, the depth of despair during the storm that ravages the tree and the grief that follows its death. The story is an allegory for the death of Pirola’s own father, John, who suffered for years through searing neuropathic pain as a result of a brain stem tumor, and over several years, underwent more than 10 brain/skull-based surgeries. I came to know Isabella when she was in kindergarten with my son and became — and remain — friends with her mother, Liz.

Photo of Isabella Pirola courtesy of Liz Pirola

After John’s diagnosis, when Isabella was in third grade, the family relocated from North Carolina to Michigan, then later, on to New York and Minnesota as John underwent surgeries to remove tumors, implant pain pumps and reconstruct parts of his skull. Each time they moved, Liz, Isabella and her three siblings tried to adjust to a new school and new place. Each time, we prayed and hoped. Each time, we were disappointed, and his terrible pain persisted. I kept in touch with Liz, but was surprised to learn this year that Isabella had written a book despite all she had gone through. Since I bought a copy, I read “Steadfast” every now and then — although it is a children’s book — because it reminds me that strength comes in many shapes and through difficult times and because, in the end, I see that the family, though grieving, remains as one.

Responding to my request to write about their story, Liz said yes. “Isabella wants others to know that there is a way to bring positive light to a very dark situation. In the moment of the storm, it does look dark and scary, but in the end, the message is far lighter and brings warmth to the heart. Her book was a testament to her love for her father, but also his storm brought him home. And the ultimate message: love never dies. He lives on through them forever.”

Turning Dyslexia on Its Head

“Looking for Heroes: One Boy, One Year, 100 Letters” by Raleigh resident Aidan Colvin with his mother, Liisa Ogburn, is a funny, hilarious, inspiring true story of how one Raleigh boy turned a “disability” — dyslexia — into a creative “ability.”

Impossible? Read the book to understand how Aidan grows along the way after coming up with the idea of writing to famous dyslexic people for advice on how they became successful. The charm of this story is that we clearly hear Aidan’s voice throughout and come to love this short, skinny rising 10th grader who struggles at school, likes to eat hot dogs at Snoopy’s with his grandfather in downtown Raleigh and is teased relentlessly by his sisters. We follow along with amusement as he wrestles with his own adolescent thoughts until he comes to the point where he puts his questions on paper and jumps on his bike to mail his letters. A waiting game follows, interrupted by letters from famous people every few months, disappointments and, finally, a visit and talk with Jay Leno, himself a dyslexic.

With each letter, Aiden discovers something about his “hero,” which points him on the path he needs to follow. From Dr. Delos Cosgrove, CEO and president of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, he learns these nuggets: “Dyslexia is an advantage in the fact that it makes us think more creatively” and “hard work will get you there.”

Along with his letter, Cosgrove sends a book. The book offers no secret shortcut to success: Cosgrove reveals that in order to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, he had to work hard to get into medical school and keep working while his classmates were playing in order to succeed. He tells Aidan he was only accepted to one of the 13 medical schools he applied to, but that one acceptance was all he needed.

Aidan receives insight from many notables — Princess Beatrice of York, Arctic explorer Ann Bancroft and novelist John Irving, to name a few — but Aidan’s “tips” sprinkled in boxes throughout the book are no less insightful and very entertaining. By the end of the book, Aidan comes to learn something wonderful about himself: “Look what can happen when we realize that the very things we think are holding us back instead turn out to be the key to worlds we would never have imagined.”

If you are the parent of a child with dyslexia — or who has a special need — consider reading this book to understand the untapped potential of your child and to discover that achieving “success” can come in unusual and creative ways. Being different can be an asset.

 

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Parenting news, opinions, family fun, free offers

About This Blog

Karen Shore lives in Holly Springs with her husband and two sons. By day, she works at the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce and by night, she's a cook, chauffeur, tutor, secretary and amateur therapist for her family. She will blog about family fun in the Triangle — including freebies and news that matters to local parents. Check back here Mondays and Thursdays for her weekday and weekend fun blog posts. 

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June 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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Dads play free mini golf with each paying player at regular price.

Cost: $7.99/person

Where:
Adventure Landing
3311 Capital Blvd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Adventure Landing
Telephone: 191-987-21688
Contact Name: Mike Collins
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Take Dad to enjoy food trucks, live music and more at Durham Central Park's food truck rodeo. All ages.

Cost: Free. Food available for purchase.

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Come out to the millpond and fish the old fashioned way - we'll provide you with a cane pole, tackle, and bait, along with basic instructions and assistance with identifying fish species. You'll...

Cost: $1.00 per person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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The Art Therapy Institute has been working in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools with the Exceptional Children's Program for the past ten years. Enjoy a summer art therapy groups in June and...

Cost: $20 per session

Where:
Art Therapy Institute of NC
200 N Greensboro St. Suite D-6 (2nd Floor Carr Mill Mall)
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Telephone: 919-381-6068
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

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Weekly basic skills cooking class offered for children ages 5-10 at Whole Foods North Raleigh.  This free class meets at the cafe each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and is offered by registering...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Learn about law issues including divorce, separation, child custody, child support, landlord-tenant issues, and more. A local attorney will lead the discussion. This event is free and free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Compass Center for Women and Families
210 Henderson Street
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Compass Center for Women and Families
Telephone: 919-968-4610
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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Enjoy "Kate Writes a Song."

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Budding naturalists ages 2-6 enjoy a craft, engaging activity, and guided walk along the greenway. Register online. Choose course #219939.

Cost: $2/person

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

More information

Join Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old who was recently recognized by President Trump at the State of the Union, to honor U.S. veterans by placing flags and flowers on their graves...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh National Cemetery
501 Rock Quarry Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 1-530-515-3825

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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Little eyes, ears and hearts are always watching and learning how to navigate life through Moms. Explore what it means to manage your mind and how important it is for your family as well as...

Cost: $10

Where:
Center for Excellence
3803B Computer Drive, Suite 106B
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Tracy Nolin Beerman
Telephone: 919-612-4608
Contact Name: Tracy
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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Join us at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro every Thursday at 10 a.m. for a casual storytime on the porch or even out in the yard. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Chatham Marketplace
480 Hillsboro St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
Contact Name: Craig Kolman
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Enjoy an easy-paced and stroller-friendly walk along the greenway. Suggested for ages 3 and younger with parent. Register online. Choose course #219870.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Enjoy a free blueberry dessert and purchase fresh blueberries from local growers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Website »

More information

What do Historic Yates Mill County Park and the woodland faeries have in common? They both love nature! Take a short walk near the millpond to search for evidence of faeries (sightings are not...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Kindergarten students entering year-round school practice a lunch line, get moving at recess, hop on a school bus and explore circle time.   

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Enjoy a family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty suncatcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join the folks at Open Table UMC in the Mordecai Neighborhood for free music and food trucks.

Cost: Free

Where:
Open Table United Methodist Church
824 N. Bloodworth Street
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Open Table UMC
Telephone: 919-561-2637
Contact Name: Andrea Chapman
Website »

More information

See the remake of Jeghetto’s hit puppet show co-written by Pierce Freelon of The Beast. This show was awarded two grants from the Henson Foundation. This Afrofuturistic puppet show,...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main Street
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 191-992-92787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
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See the critically acclaimed documentary p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} from Academy Award-winning...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
2116-D New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Website »

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The summer heat is back, and so are the insects! Join us in the Finley Center exhibit hall to do some fun insect-themed crafts. We will make butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and other insect...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Get the real scoop on turtles, how they “earn a living," and hear a story. Ages 5 and older. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

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Transform a plastic storage box into a worm bin suitable for indoor use. Materials provided. Suggested for ages 6 and older. Register online by June 17. Choose course #220017.

Cost: $45/family for City of Raleigh residents; $60 for non-residents

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2761
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

After a shaded walk out to the creek entrance, take nets into the water to see some of these creek critters up close. Discuss some of the reasons it’s so important to keep these aquatic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
6001 Turkey Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Triangle Land Conservancy
Telephone: 191-990-80054
Contact Name: Molly Richard
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More information

Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy Little Golden Books' "Jurassic Park." This action-packed and age-appropriate title is great for dinosaur lovers, both new and old. Activities to follow. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

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Read stories together and enjoy an arts and crafts activity based on the books.

Cost: $5

Where:
Read With Me
111 E. Hargett St., #110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Enjoy food trucks, games and dog-related vendors.

Cost: Free

Where:
Dorothea Dix Park
2105 Umstead Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Enjoy a one-hour family friendly performance, followed by a party in the lobby featuring live music, face-painting, snacks and additional activities. The 2018 Children’s Matinee...

Cost: $17.25

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Drive
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
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Pilobolus delivers a one-hour family friendly performance as part of the American Dance Festival. Enjoy an all-ages party in the lobby featuring live music, face-painting,...

Cost: $17.25/person

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian Dr.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: American Dance Festival
Telephone: 919-684-6402
Contact Name: Sarah Tondu
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Enjoy all-things blueberry, food trucks and more at Vollmer Farms' annual Blueberry Festival. Vollmer Farms' Back-40 Country Playground will be open and features a giant...

Cost: $15/person. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Vollmer Farm
677 NC Hwy 98 East
Bunn, NC  27508
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Sponsor: Vollmer Farm
Telephone: 919-496-3076
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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: $10.00 per boat

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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As the Triangle continues to grow, it is increasingly important to tell the stories of North Carolina so that natives, newcomers and visitors alike feel at home in our great places. Celebrate North...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
Historic Adams Farm
2601 Broad St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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See the critically acclaimed documentary p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} from Academy Award-winning...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
2116-D New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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