One clear day in the late 1980’s, I met at Park Place with a small group of seniors who wanted to share stories with elementary school-age children in individual classrooms. Germaine Dietsch, the master mind behind this idea, had asked me to come open them up to the world, techniques, and magic of crafting stories for telling stories with students. We worked, created, laughed, and told each other stories over several days, working from easy to tell brief fables to folktales to literary tales to personal stories. So many stories were shared, and with such attention, detail, love and joy. The final project of the training was to tell a full story. We all celebrated our success.
And thus, what became the “Denver Chapter” of Spellbinders was born. Though at the time we didn’t yet have a name or know that this idea would grow and other Chapters would be formed. The name came almost a year after the group began telling stories in school classrooms. When brainstorming in a meeting for a name to give the group, Dee Popat said that one of her 4th grade listeners the week before had said “you guys are really spellbinding!” And so “Spellbinders” the group became!
Germaine’s vision, determination, dedication, imagination, creativity, and pure love of children, story and storytelling created this amazing Spellbinders dream-come-true. She is its midwife and fairy godmother and angel. Included in that first group were such luminaries a Beverly Brayden and Ben Raizen. Soon, others like Marilyn Miller, Billy Miller, Alice Butz, Clyde Hocking, Lois Burrell, Gerry Hassdedt, Norma Griglewitz, Phyllis Stare, Cindy Avis and Janet Fine, and so many other dear people became mainstays of the Denver Spellbinders.
We decided that first year to have a potluck holiday gathering to share foods. I asked that people bring a food that had an accompanying story, and another Spellbinders tradition was born. It became a longstanding tradition in Spellbinders. Beverly Brayden brought a pie she had made from a special recipe, and used her family’s several-generations-old rolling pin to help tell the story. Each year there were so many stories to share, laughter and tears, and delicious memories and foods to feast upon as we listened to each other and celebrated Spellbinders and story.
Chris Smith, a liaison from Denver Public Schools became a wondrous, involved, active link with the schools and classrooms. For several years, she was immensely supportive of Spellbinders, making sure that not only logistics and funding were in place, but she also fell in love with the storytelling process herself. She was a guardian angel for Spellbinders.
By Cherie Karo Schwartz, Spellbinders Mascot