Wonderland BookSavers, Inspiring with Literature

By Claire Langdon

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These are the Haitian children who will receive these beautiful books!

Recently, team Wonderland BookSavers has been pursuing a new facet of our outreach: not only are we continually dedicated to our original mission to spread our love of literature by salvaging books and donating them to children globally, but we are also striving to generate a multiplied impact by connecting a global community over service and literature.

Over the past four months, our team collaborated with Mr. John McMillan’s French students from Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center in Chicago to address a problem facing schools in Haiti. Many schools, teachers, and students lack the literary resources needed to encourage a literate, educated community. To continue our preexistent efforts to bring books to schools in Haiti, as well as to involve our friends with similar goals in Chicago, we developed a relationship in which these students compose children’s stories in French, and we act as the conduit through which they can be successfully and usefully donated. Our community partner Susy Whitcomb at Haitian Education Initiatives will personally deliver the books to Jacmel, Haiti in March.

Not only will the recipients benefit from the practice and variety afforded by these books, but they will be the beneficiaries of impressive authorship and meticulous illustrations. The time and creativity that have very evidently been applied to these books are manifestations of the genuine care and interest going into the project and towards the Haitian children. Included below are a few of these books!

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As a result of this effort, two geographically separate communities are being connected with literature as the liaison. Our team is excited to further our mission by continuing to create a network not only within our immediate community, but with others across the world. We hope that another collaborative opportunity to illustrate books, write letters, or otherwise expand our global, literature-inspired community arises soon! Just as team Wonderland BookSavers is “inspired by literature,” we hope to spark that same inspiration in others across the world.

South Africa: Weighing-In at 129 Boxes

We like to get most of our books boxed and on the road before the first snowfall, but somehow we missed that deadline this year, so we put on our warm coats and boots and headed for the garage…

These books are all heading for South Africa, which has fairly strict importation guidelines.  Every box must be accurately labeled and weighed.

This was an excellent job for our treasurer and stellar statistician, Reid.

IMG_2282As well as for our most junior member, Wills, who is just learning his numbers.

Treasurer in training!

IMG_0774.JPGMany pounds of books! I think we can count loading the truck as gym class today.

IMG_2272Claire is managing to box books, load the truck, and attend her OHS classes!

IMG_0771.JPGIMG_0781.JPGFinally our garage is (almost) empty, and it is (almost) Christmas.

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The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;  

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.                                    Merry Christmas to All, and to all, A Good Night!

Fall Renewal: 10,000 Books for Zimbabwe; 100 Pen Pal Letters Exchanged

As summer comes to an end, many schools along the East Coast begin preparing for the new school year. This means clearing out their shelves. For us, at Wonderland BookSavers, this is an excellent time of year. We hopped in our Suburban and began visiting our favorite schools from Massachusetts to Connecticut.

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The Wetherbee School, in Massachusetts, has been especially generous. They truly understand the concept of charity. Working with their teachers, school children help to determine books, games and “manipulatives” as well as classroom posters and other tools that are no longer needed. Students then organize, prepare and box items for shipment to Africa. They are so excited and happy to know that they are actively helping other children. They compete for the opportunity to load our Suburban and take photos with us!

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As members of a Title I school, the children here are themselves frequent recipients of aid. Hailing from at least 35 countries, with many of the children describing rice and beans as their favorite food, these students eagerly share stories of daily life in America.

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Although it takes almost one year for their Pen Pal letters to make a round trip from Mbembeswana Primary School in Zimbabwe to Wetherbee School in Lawrence MA, they are thrilled that they can share their love of books, games and food with African children. We are so grateful to be the conduit for this truly snail-paced child-to-child mail system.

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Many other schools have been eager to help us in our mission to spread literacy. Librarians eagerly contact us as they prepare for the new school year.

They are delighted that their favorite books will keep inspiring children.

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And we are happy to help them box and relocate their books from their libraries to our fabulous sorting area: our garage!

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Here we sort our books by age, subject, and intended destination, so that each region will get appropriate material. Some countries require us to weigh and quantify every box. Finally, we load our boxes onto trucks.

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From here they get loaded onto shipping containers and finally set off on their long journey across the sea, to another continent, 10,000 books, school supplies, pencils, crayons, and most importantly, 100’s of letters of encouragement from children just like themselves in America.

IMG_9907.JPGThe Wonderland BookSavers are grateful to have been able to connect so many children from across the continents and to inspire a shared love of reading, our tagline: Inspired by Literature!

“Sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Boxing Books: An Inspirational Visit by Sebastian

One day last summer, I went for what I thought was going to be a regular day of hanging out with my new friends Pierce, Brooks, Emma, Claire, and Maddie from my school, little did I know I’d end up crashing a Wonderland BookSavers meeting and boxing books in their garage and having an absolute blast!!! But besides having fun, I was mostly deeply inspired by their dedicated work to bring books and literature to those without. When I got in the car to go home, I told to my mom I’d felt like I’d been wasting so much of my life when I could have been really making a difference in the world. I am so inspired by my friends and since then I’ve tried to help in any way I can.

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My pastor likes to quote Sojourner Truth’s wise words that “Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff,” and for me it was really amazing to see my friends, my very same age, making such a direct and tangible difference for humanity.

During the week, I live in Brooklyn, so I figured maybe I could help by reaching out to schools in my community there. Two amazing private schools in Brooklyn were just as inspired by Wonderland BookSavers and were eager to contribute.

The first school to reach out to us was The Berkeley Carroll School. Berkeley Carroll has been so incredibly generous to the Wonderland BookSavers mission— Thank you Berkeley Carroll! The librarians there, Ms. Briar Suaro and Ms. Kristine Hartley-Maneri, have been so kind in reaching out whenever they have books to share and have donated some 50 boxes of books to date!

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The Brooklyn Friends School was also eager to contribute and offered us a great number of books as well. For the first pick-up, Ms. Ryan and I arranged to meet at the entrance where they could most easily unload the books on Pearl Street in downtown Brooklyn. Picking up books on one-way streets in Brooklyn can always be a little tricky — you usually have to block a little traffic but we try to do it quickly! — and Ms. Ryan warned us we’d have to do some slightly illegal maneuvering in order to get to the unloading spot. But as it turned out, we never had to worry about that because when we went to pick up the books that day we discovered a street fair! A two-block radius around Brooklyn Friends had been blocked off and filled with street vendors! Never daunted, the kind custodian of the school loaned me a dolly so that I could wheel the books down Willoughby Street to where my mom was waiting with the car on the other side. I wonder if those books will always have a faint kabob smell?

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Here we are re-boxing books into smaller boxes in Brooklyn before bringing them up to Connecticut to the Barry’s garage!

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We also live upstate on the weekends and so I started looking around up there for other opportunities to find books for Wonderland BookSavers too. We found two libraries that were willing to donate all the books they had left over after their annual book sale fundraisers. First we visited the Pawling library, who kindly gave us a generous stack of books (they will be able to give us even more this spring!) And then we visited the Patterson library. Ms. Graham at the Patterson Library so generously offered to donate all of the remainder children’s books from their library! Thank you Patterson Public Library!

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Finally, we brought the books to the Barry’s garage!

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Oh and that’s my sister Emmeline — she has been helping with all of the book moving and packing too and says “Wonderland BookSavers really is a Wonderland because it’s so fun and also kind-of like Magic.” I think she said it perfectly.

Hurricane Harvey: One Ton of Support for Houston by Emma

Hurricane Harvey decimated much of Houston and surrounding areas this past August.

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Although many communities are now fully functioning, there are those that are still suffering. With close ties to the Houston community, we felt that it was incumbent upon Wonderland BookSavers to reach out and provide assistance.

When residing in Houston, we attend The Woodlands United Methodist Church. This church became a central collection and distribution point, providing needed items for people who were suddenly homeless.

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People collected and donated all the materials others needed, and then the ones affected by the hurricane would come in and “shop” for whatever they needed.   We felt so distant, being in Connecticut, so we decided to reach out to our community and collect supplies and books to ship to Houston.

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Despite the fact that it is now November, we have heard that there are schools that remain closed, schools that have lost their entire libraries due to flooding. These schools reached out to us and were very eager for us to send them 1,000’s of books to jumpstart their collections. Additionally, as we searched for shipping and trucking options, we found districts whose children were still in need of basic home goods to replace lost items.

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WBS member Ella attends St. Thomas School, and they generously put a gigantic bin in their hallway to collect cleaning supplies, clothes, bedding, canned food, pet food, and books. We were incredibly grateful for this thoughtful gesture.   We have partnered with St. Thomas in the past, as they have given us books and shoes. My sister says that St. Thomas is the kindest school in America, and I can definitely see why that is true.  After several weeks, our bin was overflowing with donations from all the children, families, and teachers.

The children from St. Thomas also made hundreds of thoughtful, kind, and supportive letters to deliver to the victims of the hurricane.

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It was so sweet reading these letters, and knowing that someone across the country will feel loved.

After collecting the supplies and the letters, we packed everything up into our car (the supplies were nearly overflowing!)

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Next, we brought everything to our garage…

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and employed eager Boy Scouts from our community, who helped box the supplies, weigh the boxes, and stack them.

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We were so touched by St. Thomas’ and our community’s joy in helping complete strangers on the other side of the country.

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One more Road Trip: Montgomery County, New Jersey, en route to Houston!

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We partnered with Operation Friends Again, a New Jersey organization, that is sending a tractor-trailer filled with gift boxes specifically for children displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

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Almost there…434.5 pounds to go!

Once we weighed all our boxes, over 2,000 lbs., or ONE TON!, they said they would be happy to bring our boxes and letters, with them, down to Houston.

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The supplies from St. Thomas and our books are being packed up in a truck this week. Then they will begin their 1,600-mile journey and will finally reach their destination.  We hope to receive pictures of the recipients of these items in order to share in their happiness.

Summer Camp: Service Style! Dedicated to Susan Ei

A bookmark printed by the St. Francis Indian Mission in St. Francis, South Dakota has the following Indian prayer: “Great Spirit — Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Hearsay attributes the prayer to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians.

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Before departing this earth, our children’s librarian, Susan Ei, encouraged us to create a Summer Service Day Camp where we could share our knowledge of the world with local kids, and create a fun learning environment that would spark both compassion and enthusiasm for others through literature and service.

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We decided to tackle this task by geographic region, and by thinking about the people to whom we most commonly donate. We wanted to be sure to include literature, crafts, games, education and a service project in each day’s meeting.

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Africa We began with Africa because we have donated so many books to multiple countries in Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. We read Patience Mariza Goes for Water by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a native of Uganda, who has built a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

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This story, although a picture book for children, is very revealing. Patience is faced with unimaginable hardships that a storybook American child would never encounter. She is beaten by her aunt, and accosted by a strange man, worried she may have AIDS, and exhausted by her daily trek in search of clean water. Eventually, she is adopted by a kind grandmother.

 

Many children in Africa walk to school, sometimes several miles, barefoot. Shoes can be made from found objects. We helped our campers understand this by helping them create their own shoes from found objects and then experimented to see how far they could walk….(not far!)

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They also decorated donation boxes that they brought from home and filled with their own shoes so that they could share these with others.

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Haiti To begin our lesson on Haiti we read Tap-Tap by Karen Lynn Williams.

IMG_1215This warm, funny story is about a girl who goes to the market with her mother and after making a little extra money she and her mother are able to ride the taxi-bus home (tap-tap) instead of walking.

We know from our relationship with our friends at Haitian Education Initiatives, that a major part of Haitian children’s education is learning to make things they can sell in the market.

In particular, children learn to sew and to make painted paper-maché bowls. After the Tap-Tap story, our campers sewed beanbags and made painted bowls. They were very beautiful, but perhaps not yet ready to be sold at the market,

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Native Americans Having just returned from South Dakota, we had many stories and adventures to share. We also read Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac and Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson.  These stories told of the bravery and beauty of the American Indians as well as some of their beliefs and dreams.

The Native Americans believe that Dream Catchers can catch bad dreams and spirits while you sleep and keep you safe.

Our campers made Dream Catchers from found objects, feathers and beads.

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Food Lottery Each day, like every wholesome American Day Camp we had Snack Time. Who doesn’t? Well, many of the children we help don’t have snack time. We discussed this each day, and one day we decided it was time to emphasize what that might mean. Each child drew a piece of paper from a basket. Those with an X were given a snack. No X, No Snack. This was a pretty shocking moment, and after a while some pretty human responses occurred. Some kids “stole” some snacks. Some kids secretly “shared” their snacks with others. Some were publicly outraged, while they gobbled their own snacks. Politics as usual.

Read to Feed We wanted to emphasize that reading is for everyone. We brought in a basket of books, the ones we usually donate, and had the campers choose their own books.

Then we made posters and made a Read to Feed program for our local library. Children can be sponsored to read and by reading they can help purchase farm animals that can bring food to a family or village in another community. (Heifer Project)

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Appalachia We have been donating books and building children’s libraries through Project Appalachia since 2012 so we are pretty committed to helping children in this region.

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We read Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant and Barry Moser. We also discussed other American communities that are in need of books and supplies. There are kids that need books and supplies that live in our own communities and we need to reach out and help them as well as helping kids that live far away.

Our campers decorated boxes and brought them home to be filled with books that they could donate to children who would love to own their own books.

Around the World and Banana Ball We also played many fun games, like an African version of soccer played with a ball made from banana leaves (although of course we didn’t have any real banana leaves) and “around the world” frisbee.

Hospitalized children We always remember kids who are sick in hospitals. So we talked about illness and had the campers put together care packages of painted bags filled with our Knot-Yet-a-Blanket kits and poetry books.

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Lemonade for Literacy Our final project was to involve our campers, and our community, in our annual lemonade stand.

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Our Summer Service Camp jointly donated and boxed hundreds of shoes, books and school supplies, and created many Blanket Gift Bags. They had walked in handmade shoes, made dream catchers, fought over food, read stories from around the world, and committed to continue reading on their own.

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It’s time to create global literacy with lemons!

Cheyenne River Reservation: Simply Smiles

While we were delivering books to Pine Ridge Reservation, we received an email from Brian, founder of Simply Smiles, an NGO that supports Cheyenne River Reservation.

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Pow Wow location at Cheyenne River Reservation

He said, quite simply, “Cheyenne River Reservation is only about 4-5 hours from Pine Ridge. In South Dakota, that’s like going out for a cup of coffee…” Well, we kind of laughed about that, because after spending some time in South Dakota we knew what he meant. It takes hours and hours to go from one place to another, and as noted by Emma, you can never use the GPS. Only a map will work.

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After ditching our trailer, and packing our Suburban to the top with boxes of books, we decided we were up for the challenge. We restocked our peanut butter and jelly, refilled our water bottles, and set out on our journey.

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We did run into a 30-minute roadblock of one car, not that unusual we found, and, of course, miles of empty, sandy roads.

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Visiting the Simply Smiles community center, located in Sam Different Horse’s community building on the Cheyenne River Reservation was amazing. Brian and Zachary and their team are welcomed into the Lakota culture. The volunteers all have close relationships with the community.

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The wind blew incessantly, but fortunately the community center had one indoor room and we were able to set up a series of folding tables and create an entire room for our “free” book fair.

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The kids were really excited and grabbed as many books as they could carry. That evening Simply Smiles was hosting a reservation-wide dinner. All the parents and grandparents were able to also come and choose books for their families.

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One woman shyly asked if she could keep some of our better-conditioned cardboard boxes to use as furniture to store her clothing in her new home. We were humbled by this simple request.

Simply Smiles imports soil and has created functioning gardens that produce enough food to feed a substantial portion of the local community.

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The greenhouse was built when Simply Smiles volunteers and Lakota Indians worked together. Zachary explained how difficult it was to stretch the plastic sheeting over the metal hoops and secure it down while battling the constant wind. We could barely imagine. The paper flowers are remnants from the previous night’s decorations when the greenhouse served as a teen dance hall.

We have continued our relationship with the Cheyenne River Reservation kids, inviting some of them to our home when they were traveling near us, visiting NYC. They joined us for dinners, swimming and basketball on several occasions. We have supported Brian at local fundraisers for Simply Smiles. We are so grateful that we have had this opportunity to get to know some of the Lakota kids and we hope to see them again. To learn more about the efforts to sustain the Lakota peoples of the Cheyenne River Reservation: Simply Smiles

Enjoy a film our team made about our trip to the three reservations: Rosebud, Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River:

 

 

Pine Ridge Reservation: Red Shirt Table

By Emma

Hey Siri!  Pull up maps…oh wait…

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Here in South Dakota, as we wandered on and off of the reservations, in search of the correct entrance to Pine Ridge Reservation, we discovered that our cell phone services and online maps let us down. We learned this only after driving hours through undulating lands surrounded by miles of prairie grass and getting lost after driving hour upon hour in the wrong direction.  Learning opportunity!  We had to drag out this huge Atlas, which I hadn’t seen since I was 3, when they were still being used, to navigate where we were going. On the upside, notice there is no problem pulling over on the highway and standing in the middle of the road, bare foot discussing our next move!

 

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Site of Massacre of Wounded Knee – Pine Ridge Reservation

We did finally make it to Pine Ridge Reservation, but getting to Red Shirt Table was another matter…

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We were thrilled to see some friends from back home, and we were welcomed with a picnic lunch and water bottles.  After that it was time to get to work.  We decided to set up the books over 3 picnic tables so that the children could choose their own books.  Here it may look like Quinn is being lazy, actually he is holding onto the books to keep them from blowing away in the constant wind!

The whole trip was made worthwhile when we got to read the children their new personal books

and watch them collect more and more.

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We also got to play with the children on the playground, and in a game of kickball.

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It was really saddening playing with these children, and then learning of their unimaginable situations at home, yet it helped us to understand why the children were so grateful, and it continued to motivate us to help them more.

IMG_0792We were inspired by the determination of this lovely girl to bring home a boxful of books for her younger siblings.  We hope to follow her example!

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Delivery

Last spring when one of our team members became ill she requested that blankets and books be given to children’s hospitals throughout our community to bring cheer to children who are suffering, and quite probably bored while lying in bed in a hospital.

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Wonderland BookSavers has been raising funds, creating Knot-Yet-a-Blanket kits, packaged with books, and distributing these gift bags to the Child Life teams in pediatric hospitals in which various team members and friends have been patients.

Partnering with Wetherbee School in Lawrence Massachusetts, dozens of children from this Title I school have been able to participate in their own “service project” by creating amazing paintings for our gift bags.

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We were excited to return to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, NH. The team at CHAD, Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, is terrific., and they took great care of one of our team members.

IMG_1263We are happy to be able to contribute to the CHAD Child Life Program.

Care to join us? Click here: Knot-Yet-a-Blanket Funding Opportunity