Penny by penny, Ottawa Hills Elementary School students next week will help families with sick children by providing them the gift of books. The “Coin Challenge” fundraiser coincides with the annual Spring Scholastic Book Fair, which runs Jan. 27-31. The money raised by the Challenge is donated to a nonprofit organization, and this year the recipient is Austin’s Book Club (ABC).
Starting Monday, students bring in different denominations of coins. Each day also has a corresponding theme, such as “Crazy Hair and Sunglasses Day.” In addition to helping a worthy cause, the “Coin Challenge” gives the building’s 500-plus students a chance to win prizes for their classrooms. Last year, students raised nearly $1,800.
The origins of Austin's Book Club
In a sense, the idea for the Club started with the 2015 hospital stay of Austin Lee Robbins. Born Sept. 20 at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital, he died three days later after losing a brief but courageous fight. (Pictured at right is Austin with moms Brittany (left) and Heather. It was the only time the family was ever together.)
His moms, Brittany and Heather Robbins, enjoyed reading to Austin in utero and expected to do so for years to come. Austin’s health quickly declined in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due gram-negative bacterial sepsis and meningitis.
Having a sick child meant they could not do "normal" parenting activities, such as hold, feed, or bathe their child. Worse, they could not take Austin home. To comfort him and themselves, the Robbins searched for children’s books. They found none in the rooms and hallways of the NICU.
In the weeks after his death, they searched for ways to establish a legacy for Austin. They again turned to books — and the result was Austin’s Book Club, which started in February 2016. Since then, several other area schools have helped raise money to buy over 4500 books that have been donated to the hospital’s NICU.
The nonprofit’s launch and early success earned it the "Young Philanthropist of the Year" award from the ProMedica Foundation. More than 900 babies are admitted to the NICU at ProMedica Toledo Children's Hospital in a given year. Thanks to ABC, each family is given a book to read to their child. And those books go home with the families when the child is discharged. So there is an ongoing need to replenish the supply.
"It is our goal for Austin’s legacy to continue on through the power of literature," they said. "We want every parent to experience the joy of reading to their child because that is the most normal thing a parent can do at that time."
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