Friday, December 18, 2009

A Little Girl's Love of Reading Lives On After Her

Do you have time for a nice Christmas story? This one is about a little girl and the parents who miss her; it's about books and book people; and it's about making a difference.

Joe and Carole Hemmelgarn, of Colorado, lost their almost-10-year-old daughter to acute lymphoma leukemia about three years ago. Alyssa, a fourth-grader was an avid reader, sometimes going through two or three books a week. Her great love of books was one of the things that made her a special little girl, and her parents honor Alyssa's passion today by handing out thousands of free books in her memory.

From the Denver Post:
Her parents grieved hard for more than a year. And in recalling their daughter, they shared stories of her love of books, how she devoured them often at a rate of two or three a week.

They soon started the Alyssa Cares Foundation, registered and began soliciting donations to purchase books. A year and a half later, the Highlands Ranch couple has distributed for free close to 8,000 children's books to low-income students at four schools in Aurora and Denver.

They gave a book to each of the 408 children at Paris Elementary, where 94 percent are eligible for reduced-fee or free school meals. The couple now has at least 50 copies of 103 different titles.

"It is a way to keep Alyssa alive in a lot of ways," Carole Hemmelgarn, 45, said. "We want to pass along a gift she was given, her love of reading."
Many of the kids hug her (Carole). She hugs them back. It is why the foundation is just the two of them. The point, she said, is that they be at the schools, telling their story. After each child makes a selection, she slides the book and an orange bookmark into an orange bag, Alyssa's favorite color. She then asks each child to share the story with her when she returns, blinking hard to keep her tears at bay. "As long as there are tears and emotions," Carole Hemmelgarn explains later, "I feel like Alyssa is not slipping away, you know? "I don't care if I cry. I still love her so much."
Book people are special people. They prove it to me almost every day.

If you would like to help, please go to this link for the Alyssa Cares Foundation. Thanks.

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