11-Year-Old Keely Cahoon Named America’s First-Ever ‘Top Banana’

April 11, 2016 (Providence, RI) –11-year-old Keely Cahoon from Ralph D. Butler Elementary School in Avon, MA has defeated 10,000 other 4th-6th graders throughout New England to win the first-ever U.S. BANANAGRAMS Challenge!  The 5th grader is the first child in the States to be crowned ‘Top Banana’ after triumphing over 11 other children at the live Grand Final of the word game tournament, held on April 9 at the Omni Providence Hotel in Providence, RI, home state of BANANAGRAMS.

The Challenge runner-ups were 4th grade students Kaede Shimamura from Lyndon Town School in Lyndon, VT and Jaida Tillinghast of George J Peters school in Cranston, RI. 

Receiving her specially-designed trophy from Rena Nathanson, co-inventor of the addictive anagram game, Keely said, “I feel proud of myself because I worked really hard on it and haven’t really stopped practicing since I started playing in school.  I wanted to win this Bananagrams Challenge for my school and the town of Avon."

Her cheering squad added:

“I am so proud of Keely!! She worked so hard, and her sportsmanship was exquisite. This was a very rewarding day for me having the honor to be her teacher!" - Keely’s teacher, Mrs. McGrath, who oversaw the Challenge at Ralph D. Butler Elementary School

“I am extremely proud of Keely's accomplishment.  It was great to see her show so much interest and excitement in playing educational word games in preparing for this challenge." – Keely’s father, Rob Cahoon

“Words cannot express how proud I am of Keely. This was an amazing opportunity, and I am so excited that Keely had the chance to experience it. She set her sights on making it to the regional competition.  To see her not only do that, but to reach her ultimate goal and achieve the title of Top Banana was beyond thrilling."  - Keely’s Mom Keyne M. Cahoon

10,000 children in more than a hundred schools throughout New England competed in the classroom earlier this year. The best player from each school – the Best of the Bunch – then went forward to compete in a series of online word games. The top 12 players stemming from the online portion played in the live Grand Final.

Keely also took home an exclusive goody bag and a $1,000 check for her school, which was presented by Nathanson, along with Ace Aceto, Grand Final host and local RI personality.

Nathanson, who took part in a live Q&A session with all 12 finalists at the Grand Final commented, “Keely is an extremely deserving winner. The team was very impressed with her Bananagrams skills and equally as important, her level of respect and graciousness towards her fellow finalists.  All the children did unbelievably well under such intense pressure, and it was Keely’s impeccable word skills that saw her triumph in the end.
“When my family and I invented BANANAGRAMS back in 2006, my father and talked of one day being able to get schools competing and going wild with words together. I’m immensely proud of how the inaugural Challenge has turned out, and I look forward to growing it year over year.”
The BANANAGRAMS Challenge 2016 was the first official U.S. BANANAGRAMS tournament for schools. As part of its mission to get children playing with words, BANANAGRAMS launched the Challenge to help boost vocabulary and spelling skills in classrooms and after-school clubs across the country.

The complete lists of finalists was as follows:

Keely Cahoon, 5th Grade, Ralph D. Butler Elementary School, Avon, MA
Grant Culton, 4th Grade, Hampden Meadows School, Barrington, RI
Braedan Curran, 5th Grade, E. G. Molin Upper Elementary School, Newburyport, MA
Hope Gee, 6th Grade, Archie R. Cole Middle School, East Greenwich, RI
Connor Gonyea, 6th Grade, Trinity Catholic Academy, Southbridge, MA
Sebastien Martinez, 4th Grade, Yarmouth Elementary School, Yarmouth, ME
Jay Nagpaul, 6th Grade, Worcester Academy, Worcester, MA
Julia Pulley, 6th Grade, Perry Hill School, Shelton, CT
Ania Ricci, 5th Grade, Kingston Intermediate School, Kingston, MA
Julia Shellard, 5th Grade, Oak Lawn Elementary, Cranston, RI
Kaede Shimamura, 4th Grade, Lyndon Town School, Lyndon, VT
Jaida Tillinghast, 4th Grade, George J Peters, Cranston, RI

Visit https://bananagramschallenge.com/ for further information about The BANANAGRAMS Challenge. Schools interested in taking part in the 2017 Challenge can also now register via the website.

"We all love Bananagrams – such a fun game for all ages!"
— Cindy Crawford
"Playing Bananagrams with friends! I love this game! I was just named Bananagrams Ninja! Be afraid, I’m amazing!"
— Kelly Clarkson
"(I'm a) self-proclaimed Bananagrams champion..."
— Andrew Luck | Indianapolis Colt's Quarterback
“Why it's fun: Manages to be speedy, challenging and super-simple at the same time.”
— AARP Magazine on Zip-It
“Can you spell P-H-E-N-O-M-E-N-O-N”
— Boston Globe
“Bananagrams go Hebrew. We’re kvelling!”
— Cool Mom Picks
“Good luck prying this anagram game [Bananagrams] away from students.”
— Scholastic
“Appletters will tickle word lovers to the core.”
— Everyday with Rachael Ray
“Gotta love the Bananagrams.”
— Kathie Lee Gifford
“This [Bananagrams] is so portable, I stash it in my car.”
— Kristen Bell
“Who’s up for a round of Bananagrams, anybody?”
— Jimmy Kimmel
“I love Bananagrams.”
— Ellen DeGeneres
"Maggie Smith loves it. They'll be like 'can we have you back on set' and she's just like [imperious wave of the hand] 'not now.' "
— Lily James, Lady Rose on Downton Abbey
"...one of my favorite games ever, Bananagrams – a fun, fast,addictive word game that will become a family favorite"
— Katie Couric