Daily Point of Light Awards Presented to Two Sisters Who Are Sharing Their Love of Literacy with Thousands in Need

Maggie and Harper Cunningham Receive Daily Point of Light Award

HOUSTON, Oct. 19, 2015 - On the first day of the Conference on Volunteering and Service, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in Houston, two sisters from College Station, Texas, will be honored for their love of reading that led to a community project that brings books and blankets to children in need. Harper and Maggie Cunningham, are the Daily Point of Light Award honorees today. The Daily Point of Light Award, created by President George H. W. Bush in 1989, celebrates the power of individuals to spark change and improve the world.

This passion project began one day as the Cunningham family was driving to an afterschool activity, they started talking about how they could do something nice for others. During that car ride with her young daughters, Harper and Maggie, Melissa Cunningham wondered aloud, “What could we do?”  “I want to give books!” responded Harper. “And I want to give a blanket!” added Maggie.

That moment was the start of Books and a Blanket, which promotes literacy and well-being by giving children in need a collection of books and a warm blanket each year before school breaks for the winter. During 2012, its first year, the effort reached 119 children and distributed approximately 1,200 books. By the end of last year, 802 children had each received a blanket and a basket of 15 books. 

“I think books are the most important things in a household,” says Harper, 12. “I knew that some of the kids in my school didn’t have very many at home.”  Chimes in 10 year old Maggie, “And I thought they might not have blankets. The two go together.

Now at the beginning of each school year, the team sends a donation request form to the nine area schools that participate in the program. Then, the girls start sorting thousands of books by grade level.  “We started by giving away the girls’ own books that they had outgrown,” says Melissa. Now everything is donated, and about 15,000 books fill a storage unit.

Tracy Hoover, CEO of Points of Light shared why the Cunningham sisters were chosen to receive this coveted award, “When families come together to serve their communities, kids get into the habit of thinking beyond themselves, parents and children spend quality time with each other, and bonds get stronger. By sharing the gifts of reading and warmth with kids in need, the Cunningham sisters and their parents show us the value of volunteering as a family.”

“I can’t go more than five minutes without stopping to bury myself in a book,” says Maggie. “Mom has to keep telling me to get back to work!” In this family effort, everyone has a job to do.

The girls’ dad, George, created the Books and a Blanket website and helps man a booth during events. Meanwhile, Melissa helps the girls manage their time and get them where they need to be when deliveries start.

Driving the project is research showing that being able to read by third grade is critical to success in school and as an adult. Plus, the sisters say, reading is simply one of the great pleasures in life.

“I love books, especially fiction, because they can take you on adventures and make you feel like you’re part of a whole other world,” says Harper. “It’s important for all kids to have that experience.

The project has impacted so many children’s lives, as Books and a Blanket has distributed 802 blankets and 12,030 books since 2012.

For more information about U.S. Daily Point of Light Award – or to nominate someone you know – please visit www.pointsoflight.org/dailypointoflight.

About Points of Light

Points of Light – the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – mobilizes millions of people to take action that is changing the world. Affiliated with 250 cities and partnered with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, we are so grateful for our top sponsors of this year’s Conference: The UPS Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Citi Foundation, Deloitte, Target, Disney and United Airlines. Points of Light engages more than 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service each year – we put people at the center of change. For more information, go to www.pointsoflight.org.