We all have our favorite books. From a fantasy book about dragons and princesses, to a mystery book filled with suspense and intrigue, they inspire creativity, imagination and wonder.
For 11-year-old Vance Tomasi, from Tampa, Florida, his favorite books are from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. His best friend, 10-year-old Chance Hartman, adores the Harry Potter series.
“We love, love reading. It takes you on an imagination adventure that a toy won’t.” Vance told Parent Toolkit. “It’s way more educational. A toy can’t teach a kid to be brave. They teach lessons: to be brave, to try to help someone.”
These lessons are critical. But they’re lessons that not every child is fortunate enough to get. After volunteering for a program called “Boogie for Books” through the National Elementary Honor Society chapter at their elementary school, the pair was shocked to come to the realization that not all kids have equal access to books at their schools. “When we learned that some kids didn’t have books in their community, we wanted to help,” said Chase.
Through the “Boogie for Books” program, “we gave the books to kids that didn’t have them. It wasn’t a lot of books, only a couple hundred,” said Vance.
But the idea of giving back stuck with the boys. The pair quickly realized that they could do so much more for their community and set their eyes on a much bigger goal. They recently shared an even more ambitious goal with the Parent Toolkit for the #GoalToBeGreater challenge: to donate 20,000 books by February 2017.
“It wasn’t surprising to me that they wanted to do it,” said Chase’s mom Kim Parrish. “When they came up with the 20,000 number - that was astronomical - but when it comes to kids, you never want to discourage them. They are capable of doing anything.”
The pair started an organization called read.repeat in August and have already received over 15,000 donated books. Donations have poured in from friends, family and the community.. Their elementary school placed a bin in the lobby of the school for students and parents to leave their books. Even their karate instructor pitched in to help out. One night, a complete stranger dropped off 12 giant boxes at the karate studio, filled with encyclopedias.
“My karate coach said, ‘I don’t know how they got there. They came in and gave us lots of books,’” remarked Chase.
“These aren’t small books,” added Vance. “Sometimes the boxes are bigger than us. Sometimes they have 2,000 books in them.”
To ensure that they are only passing along the best ones, the pair have spent hours going through all of the books, categorizing them by type, and discarding any books that can’t be used.
“Any split second they have, they are here in my warehouse sorting books and looking for donating books,” said Kim Parish, Chase’s mom.
From kid’s books and cookbooks, to coloring books and traditional nonfiction and fiction books, they’ve received pretty much any type of book you can imagine. And they have found some real treasures along the way, including a study guide for a class at Harvard University and even a 1987 high school year book. “We couldn’t really give it to a kid,” said Vance, remarking on the usual find. “So we kept it and we said ‘Eh, this will be fun to read.’”
The dynamic duo has donated over 11,000 books-- and counting -- to nursing homes, hospitals and schools in their community.
“It makes us feel excited because we are seeing all of these happy faces from all of these different people,” said Chase. “We donated to this one elementary school and there was this girl. I asked her, ‘What are you going to do with the book?’ She said, ‘I’m going to hold it, I’m going to love it and I’m going to read it.’”
During a recent visit to a local veteran’s hospital, Vance, Chance, and Chase’s mom, Kim, got to see the immense impact of their work first hand as they passed books to different veterans.
“[Many of the veterans] don’t get a lot of visitors,” said Kim. “By being able to put the faces to the donation, it really changed my perspective on reality. It has allowed them to know that they are making a huge difference.”
This entire project has been filled with lifelong lessons for both boys.
“This whole thing taught me that if there is someone in need, if you help them, it could set off a chain reaction,” said Vance. “We might be the only kids that could help them. It could help them get inspired. It could help them read better."
Chase added, “We might only be kids, but we can make a difference. We can still change the world in many ways, like volunteering or donating books like we are doing.”
The pair hopes to reach their goal of donating 20,000 books by February and then plans on setting a new goal: 30,000 books.
Want to help Vance and Chase in their efforts? Click here to visit their website.
This piece is part of the Parent Toolkit’s Week of Giving. Click here to read more inspirational stories.