Children impacted by tornado get new books

Tornado Victims Tornado Victims

A page from a children’s book left scattered by a tornado inspired a special program in Celina, Ohio.

“#KidLitForCelina: Replacing Family Libraries Lost in the Memorial Day Tornado” took place nine weeks after the tornado struck the city on May 27, 2019. Children’s book author Michelle Houts organized the event. The goal was to help replace the books children lost when the EF3 tornado damaged their homes.

Each of the children in attendance were able to select 20 brand-new books donated by authors, illustrators, booksellers and other industry professionals. Many of the authors signed the books they donated. Children from elementary through high school age sifted through more than 800 books.

Inspirational message found in wreckage

Tornado Victims

The idea for the event arose when Houts’ friend found a page from a children’s book nestled in a bush in the tornado-ravaged Wheatland Subdivision. One side of the page was a mountain scene with lightening reaching down from the sky on a stormy night. The other side of the page contained these words:

“Storms come. Storms pass. I am countless droplets of rain left floating in the silent air. I reflect all the colors of sunlight. I am the rainbow.”

The tornado had ripped the page from the book “Water Dance” by Thomas Locker. Houts felt it was a sign. As a former teacher, she understands the importance of reading. She could not erase the damage to the children’s homes but she could help create a “rainbow” for them with new books.

Amazing response warms the heart

Houts and a dedicated group of volunteers worked for several months planning the book disbursement. By the day of the event, they had received more than $11,000 worth of books from 86 donors.

Jane Dippold, a very talented local artist, created a design to place on tote bags the children could use to carry their books home. Totally Promotional printed the customized bags and helped with the cost.

“We carry what we can in suitcases when we go and when they request items too big or heavy, we consider the container,” Thieman said.

Traci Willrath, who was helping her children make book selections during the event, talked about the tornado that struck their home.

“We lost about half of our books,” she said. “Books are a big part of our life. I’ve read to my kids since birth and I always went to the library with them. This is so great!”

At the next table, Sarah Harner explained how the tornado had lifted the roof off their home on Brooke Avenue.

“We took a direct hit,” she said, adding that all paper items in the house were drenched.

As she spoke, her son, Liam, 6, began placing books in her arms until she could hardly see over the stack.

Houts said the reaction from the families melted her heart. One parent who recently received news that their home would be demolished, not repaired, tearfully thanked her for providing something “huge” for her children. She also recalled a teenage girl slipping a book into her bag that she described as her “all-time favorite.”

After the event, a parent posted on Facebook that her girls stayed up “who knows how late” reading their new books under the covers with a flashlight.

About two dozen children attended the event with parents, grandparents and siblings. Organizers are also working to provide books to other tornado victims who could not make the event. They will donate the remaining books to the local school library, Houts said.

The staff at Totally Promotional are extremely proud of the kindness and generosity of all the people in our area and beyond who supported this project and others that benefitted local victims of the Memorial Day tornado. Thank you all!

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