By Amanda Wolkin

Despite a 6 a.m. wake-up call and inclement weather on Oct. 16, nearly 200 Marist students, teachers and administrators donned Virgil’s Reading Crown to raise money for the Atlanta chapter of the Lost Boys of Sudan.

“There are only two rules — read every word aloud and wear the Crown,” said Marist Latin teacher, Dr. Anne Washington Saunders. “It’s as easy as that.”

Apparently “easy” has taken on a new meaning. For 12 straight hours — from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Saunders and fellow Latin teacher Tom Marier, co-creators of Marist’s fundraising Read-a-Thon, braved the elements to ensure that each line of Virgil’s 12-book Latin epic “Aeneid” was voiced. The event has been held for the past eight years as close to Virgil’s birthday (Oct. 15) as possible.

Though Latin students began reading “Aeneid” at dawn, all members of the Marist community were encouraged to stop by the reading podium in the center of the school’s campus at some point during the day to lend their voices to a good cause. Each participant of this unbroken chain of readers was required to wear the leafy, Roman-inspired crown and initial the official copy of the epic when he or she completed reading.

“The faculty, students, staff, just everyone, comes together,” said Saunders. “It’s a community feel. People are excited to contribute to the fundraiser.”

The fundraiser has won the Georgia Junior Classical League (JCL) Service Award in 2006 and the National JCL Most Creative Service Award in 2007. The JCL is an organization that promotes the study of the language, literature and culture of ancient Greece and Rome.

This year, the Read-a-Thon met its goal of raising $1,000 thanks to donations from the Marist community. The money will go towards tuition at Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) for members of Atlanta’s chapter of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of 120 men that were driven from their native Sudanese homes by a civil war in 1987 in an attempt to escape induction into slavery, recruitment into the northern army or death.

Last year, the Read-a-Thon paid for four GPC courses.

“The Read-a-Thon has been a great way to celebrate the greatest epic in Latin literature and contribute to a worthy cause,” said Saunders. “I’ve seen students with dyslexia and students who hate reading out loud refuse to stop reading the ‘Aeneid’ once they start. You can’t refuse Virgil and the Lost Boys.”