Meet Daily Point of Light Award honorees Harper and Maggie Cunningham.
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.
“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 to where they need to be when deliveries start.
“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,” says Tracy Hoover, Points of Light’s president. “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.”
Driving the Cunningham family’s work 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.”
To learn more about the Daily Point of Light Award, or to nominate a volunteer or organization, please visit www.pointsoflight.org/dailypointoflight.