Author Asks for Book Donations After Girl Loses Everything in Fire


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Source: Parma Elementary School

Source: Parma Elementary School

Three simple tweets are helping to change one 8-year-old’s childhood.

Heidi VanSumeren, a second grader from Parma Elementary School in Michigan, recently lost the majority of her personal belongings in a tragic fire in her family’s home. By chance, a children’s author was scheduled to visit VanSumeren’s elementary school soon after and his little gesture helped get the girl back on her feet.


When author Bob Shea made a presentation at VanSumeren’s school, he learned about her story and selected the 8-year-old to help during his presentation. After it was over, Shea wanted to know what else he could do to help the young girl.

“After it was over, I asked, ‘Would it be alright if I just put it on Twitter that this girl needs books?’” Shea told ABC News. “All of my followers are kid lit [children’s literature] people.”

The tweets gained a lot of attention after they were retweeted by Colby Sharp, a teacher from VanSumeren’s elementary school, who also has his own children’s literature blog.

“They know that books save lives and that books are an escape for people going through tough times,” Sharp shared about the authors who reached out. “They couldn’t stand the thought of this little girl going without them.”

Two weeks after Shea sent out the tweets, VanSumeren received more than she could imagine. More than 300 books, multiple gift cards for new clothes, and a brand new Pottery Barn desk and bookshelf were sent to VanSumeren and her family.

“It was such a simple thing to do,” Shea said of his gesture. “I couldn’t believe it. Everybody wanted to send stuff.”

While supplies keeps pouring into the school, VanSumeren makes sure to bring it back to her grandparents home, where she is staying since the fire.

“We ended up with three backpacks and three big totes full of books,” said VanSumeren’s mother. “She loves looking at every book because a lot of the authors signed them or wrote a message for her inside.”

The books have helped VanSumeren cope with the fire and a recent death in the family.

“Books are really special for her,” VanSumeren mother shared. “We can talk to her and try to explain but when she can read it on her own whenever she’s sad and needs help, that’s always been an easier way for her to understand things.”


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