Pikes Peak United Way hosts a Dolly Parton night to raise money for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. (Video by Skyler Ballard and Katie Klann)

There were big Dolly Parton wigs, denim and sparkles as they rocked “9 to 5” and “Jolene” at the inaugural Pikes Peak United Way Karaoke for a Cause.

Their cause was books mailed every month to several thousand more area youngsters from birth to age 5 as part of Dolly’s Imagination Library.

“This is the most beloved of our programs,” United Way CEO Cindy Aubrey told a wild and crazy group of fundraising singers and musical hopefuls Jan. 29 at Johnny’s Navajo Hogan.

It was part of a special tradition. When the legendary singer started Imagination Library in 1995 in her home area of East Tennessee, she was honoring her father, who could neither read nor write. Hoping to inspire her county’s preschoolers to love reading, she arranged for a selected book to arrive at their homes each month.

Other cities and states took notice, setting up programs, and now 132 million Imagination Celebration books have been mailed to 1.5 million children in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and Australia.

Pikes Peak United Way has run the local program since 2012 to help children learn to read before kindergarten. With the help of local donors, 412,875 books have arrived at area homes. There are 3,267 children enrolled with a goal this year of 5,000; 11,960 have graduated at age 5.

Grateful parents, who said their children often read 15 minutes a day or more, told United Way that youngsters are sad when they turn 5 and don’t race to the mailbox each month for a new book.

A quote shared during karaoke night: “My children have a wonderful selection of books we would never have been able to afford. All of them love reading and it gives us a wonderful bonding experience.”

Taking home the karaoke trophy from the first competition were Kat Lilley and her team from Family Promise, Crystal Butterfield Karr, Adalina Blair and Shelly Dierking, who did Dolly proud and won the night.

Photo gallery: gazette.com/life/around-town

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