Julie from Maumee, Ohio

    Nearly six years ago, my husband and I experienced every parent’s nightmare, when we were advised that our 10 year old daughter had died suddenly while attending camp.  Most parents that have lost a child feel the need to honor and memorialize their child after their death.  Our local library serves as the solution to our challenge to find a way to remember Claire and share her love of reading with the community.

     Claire was a voracious reader, as I have always been. When I was growing up, I would often ride my bike to the bookmobile that came near my rural home.  The library and its endless supply of books offered summer days filled with words, and cold winter nights snuggled with a book.  It was a love that I shared with my children, beginning with Claire, my oldest.

     I took Claire and her two younger siblings to the library often, bringing home armfuls of new adventures to discover.  For the short time that she was with us, Claire read everything from biographies to fun fiction.  Over the years her favorites included stories by Cynthia Rylant, the Babysitter club series, Beverly Cleary books, and then ultimately, the Harry Potter books.  She loved story time at our local library, and would play “library” at home, with all of her borrowed treasures on display for patrons to choose from.  We went to many library events as a family, and the library staff knew all three of my children well.  I remember how touched I was by several members of the staff attending Claire’s funeral services.

     The answer to our prayers for a way to memorialize Claire stemmed from an article about First Lady Laura Bush and her involvement with the Texas Book Festival, which benefits the libraries of the state.  I was most impressed learning that most of the authors that are invited to be a part of this special event either hail from Texas or have written about the state.  Once reading the Time magazine story (ironically on a flight to Florida to my oldest nieces’ wedding just six months after Claire died), I passed the magazine to my husband sitting beside me. With tears in my eyes, I told him that this is how we were going to honor Claire.  We would stage a children’s book festival in her memory.  The concept of Claire’s Day had begun.

     Now six years since my last hug goodbye, we are on the brink if celebrating our fifth annual Claire’s Day…A Celebration of Life, Authors, Illustrators and Reading Excellence.  Always held at the Maumee (Ohio) library on the third Saturday in May (her birthday is May 24) the halls and grounds of our local branch are filled with the sounds of children’s book authors and illustrators inspiring future writers with their fun presentations.  Children also delight in tales  woven by storytellers, dancing to music, and making book related crafts, all activities she enjoyed.  A special aspect of the day is our C.A.R.E. awards (Claire’s Awards for Reading Excellence), given to children nominated by their principals as being most improved in their reading skills. Their stories are very heartwarming.  The participating authors now visit schools for several days leading up to the event.  An evening function has been added, allowing adults to “be children again” and mingle with the authors in an intimate atmosphere…the children’s section at our Main library.  Claire’s Day is slowly evolving into Claire’s Week!

     We have given a $2500 grant every year to the library foundation, earmarked to purchase books written or illustrated by our future participants.  This year we also gave over $4500 worth of books to schools hosting authors.

     We are blessed to have many friends that serve on our committee and help produce our tribute every year.  Sponsors and volunteers come forward annually to help insure the success of the event.  The library has been an incredible partner in this endeavor, and has truly changed our lives.  Our library has allowed us to share a little bit of Claire with children from throughout the community.  She would have liked that.