(Editor’s Note: Nationally acclaimed actor and author Henry Winkler will make his first visit to West Virginia on October 16th to inspire the county’s 3rd, 4th & 5th grade students and serve as the guest speaker for the Jackson County Community Foundation’s Celebration Benefit. We spent some time with Jane Winters, Regional Manager of Affiliates for Our Community’s Foundation, to learn more about Henry Winkler’s rare visit and what the Foundation has planned during his stay.)    
JN: Henry Winkler is coming to Jackson County. This is phenomenal. Tell us how this came about.

Winters: Each year the Foundation works to bring an accomplished guest to speak at the Community Celebration Benefit and inspire our students. Over the past three years we have hosted Tamarack’s visual artists, author Homer Hickam, and Grammy Award winner Kathy Mattea. When we were working with the agent who represented Homer Hickam, we asked if there were other artists who appealed to youth and delivered outstanding inspirational addresses. The agent told us Henry Winkler delivered one of the most dynamic presentations that she had ever heard. Henry is known throughout the entertainment industry as one of the “nicest guys” in Hollywood. As the agent said, “Henry delivers an engaging and inspirational message that touches your soul. You feel so comfortable with him that you want to take him home to dinner!”  

JN: How long did it take to convince Henry Winkler to come to Jackson County?
Winters: It was not easy. We tried for two years to get Henry here. The first time we asked, he was busy producing a film in Los Angeles. His agent told us he rarely did school and community presentations and when he did, he usually only visited locations where he could fly directly to it and return home to LA. After learning about his award winning work with the British government on the “My Way!” Campaign – an educational initiative that focused on raising awareness for children with learning challenges, we tried again early this year. This time we appealed to Mr. Winkler’s desire to inspire children and share his message that “we need to teach children how to learn – not what we think they should learn”.  We told him about the arts in education programs that the Foundation had shared with our schools over the past three years.   After a few weeks of inquiries, he finally agreed to join us for a very rare appearance in Jackson County, WV.  

JN: Most of us know Henry Winkler as “The Fonz” from the famous TV series Happy Days. There is so much more to Henry Winkler  - isn’t there?

Winters: Absolutely! This October Jackson County residents are in for a rare treat as they get to know a very different side of Henry Winkler. He will share the work that has given him his greatest source of pride and accomplishment - his series of children’s novels entitled, “Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Under-Achiever.”  
In addition to his award-winning acting career, Henry Winkler is also a New York Times best-selling author, producer, director and noted philanthropist, and he has been honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with an Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his work with children with learning challenges.  
Winkler is beloved by everyone (my age) as “The Fonz” since we grew up watching “Happy Days.” For the past 30 years he has worked in the entertainment industry in a wide variety of roles in front and behind the camera. In 2003 his career took another turn when he began writing a series of children’s novels entitled, “Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Under-Achiever.” The books were inspired by Winkler’s struggle throughout his life with dyslexia, which was not diagnosed until he was in his thirties. Winkler’s warm and witty Hank Zipzer 18-novel series has been on several Best Seller lists, including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, and is now a children’s cartoon TV show in Britain.  The Hank Zipzer books have entertained and inspired children and parents all over the world.

JN: Most of us did not know that Henry Winkler has dyslexia. How has it affected his life as an actor and author?

Winters: Henry shares his struggles with dyslexia through his children’s novel character, Hank Zipzer.  In the popular book series, Hank finds funny and unusual ways to deal with life’s challenges as a grade school student. Henry Winkler has often said that he had trouble reading books his entire life, so he never imagined he could ever write one. Winkler’s intellectual accomplishments will be the focus when he comes to Jackson County on October 16th to meet with elementary students and address the community. Despite his struggle with dyslexia, Henry Winkler is a “smart cookie”! He worked very hard to receive a bachelor’s degree from Emerson College, Boston, and then went on to acquire a Master’s degree from Yale University School of Drama.

JN: What can the elementary students expect from Henry Winkler’s School Program?

Winters: Winkler will make two appearances in Jackson County schools on October 16th, in addition to his Celebration Benefit address later that evening. He will address the county’s 3rd, 4th & 5th grade students at the auditoriums at Ripley High in the morning and Ravenswood High in the afternoon.  We have an outstanding school steering committee made up of passionate retired teachers who spent the spring spearheading efforts to secure donations from the committee to purchase a set of Hank Zipzer books for each 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classroom. They met with the reading teachers for these grades in June, before school was out, to distribute the books for their classrooms and Hooked on Hank Teacher Activity Guides so the teachers can prepare programs for the fall using the Zipzer books. The teachers have plans to kick off a “Hooked on Hank” Reading Program in August with Dynamic Readers, community leaders reading the Hank Zipzer books in the classroom, reading contests, and other fun activities so the students will be familiar with Winkler’s books before he addresses them in October.  The teachers are excited. They never dreamed of having someone of Winkler’s fame and talent in their schools. Students and adults will be motivated by Winkler’s inspirational stories of overcoming challenges.

JN: How can the Community Foundation afford to bring someone of Henry Winkler’s status to Jackson County?

Winters: We would never be able to afford to bring nationally acclaimed artists like Henry Winkler to our community if it were not for wonderful people who support the Foundation. David & Linda Dickirson and the Dickirson Corporation have generously provided the funding to underwrite Winkler’s visit to Jackson County. Over the past three years, we have been privileged to partner with the Dickirson Corporation to underwrite Tamarack artwork in our schools as well as Homer Hickam and Kathy Mattea school and community programs. Mr. Dickirson enjoys bringing in artists who will inspire and engage our students – giving them a rare opportunity that they would not otherwise have. We are grateful for his generous financial underwriting as well as his help in contracting these outstanding artists to share with our community. We hope others in the community will begin to take a larger role, such as the Dickirsons have, to support similar events in the future.             

JN: Are tickets still available to see Henry Winkler’s Community Address on October 16th? And, how do you get tickets?
Winters: Tickets are going fast. We have determined that we can sell about 528 tickets for a dinner presentation at the Armory in Millwood and we only have about 100 tickets left. I encourage anyone who wants to hear Henry Winkler’s community address to purchase their ticket now – in the next few weeks.  I am doubtful that we will have tickets available after August. Individual tickets and table sponsorships can be reserved for the Celebration Benefit by stopping by our office at 716 West Main Street (in the United Bank Branch Building); by calling the Foundation at 304-372-8588 or Volunteer Ticket Committee Chair Jenny Parsons at 304-472-5189; or through email at jane.winters@pacfwv.com. Seating will be assigned (front row to back) by the date the confirmation is made.