When 16-year-old Alex Law’s friend Ellie told her how isolating it was to be a patient at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) during the pandemic shutdown, Law and three of her friends decided to do something to help.
“Ellie told me about the children she meets when she has to go to CHOC sometimes, some who have to be there for months at a time,” Law told The Epoch Times. “She said it was really lonely for them because only one parent could visit for a limited time each day and no volunteers could come to read or play with them because of COVID.”
During the pandemic school shutdowns, Law and her fellow Corona del Mar High School pals Layla Hahn and Taylor Park, alongside Sage Hill School friend Susan Zhang, worked together on a Little Free Library site in Santa Ana.
The project came about through Sage Hill School’s Service Learning Program, which provides students with opportunities to serve as leaders who take initiative, think critically, work collaboratively, creatively, and compassionately.
As they worked on the Little Free Library project together, Law told The Epoch Times how much it meant to see the smiles of children and their parents as they picked books from the library they’d created for the community.
“They always tell us they are grateful for the books and the chance to read, especially so during the pandemic,” Law said. “We’ve expanded the bookshelves to include more books for teenagers and adults, so there’s books for all ages.”
Inspired by their friend Ellie, and since they were already working on a Little Free Library project, the friends decided to expand their efforts to include donating new books to CHOC in an effort to stave off the loneliness, boredom, and fear their friend had shared about her periodic visits to CHOC.
They formed the Dynamite Book Club, and decided to reach out to the community with a call to action.
“After hearing our friend Ellie’s stories, we realized all the little things we forgot about during the pandemic,” Law said. “And all the kids that don’t have access to the basics we take for granted every day, like being able to read a book.”
A Call to Action
In April, Law posted a message on the NextDoor neighborhood app asking for new book donations for CHOC patients.
Soon, thumbs-ups, smiley faces, and encouraging responses began to populate her post, along with a string of offers for donations large and small of both new and used books.
Not old enough to get her driver’s license, Law had her mom’s help picking up books all over town.
She said they even received a donation from a businessman with an Amazon bookstore that donated hundreds of educational textbooks he couldn’t sell due to COVID. The Dynamite Book Club donated the books to students who might otherwise not be able to afford them.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the community,” said Law. “This past weekend, I got hundreds of books from neighbors who donated.”
Helping Each Other
Susan Zhang recalled a day during the pandemic when she and her mom were listening to the radio as they drove in the car.
“The man on the radio was talking about how much at-risk and low-income kids rely on the resources their school provides them, like school lunches, books, even emotional support,” Zhang said. “When the schools closed because of the pandemic, those kids couldn’t get access to the basics they relied on.”
This created efforts by the club to reach out to other students for donations of the textbooks they were no longer using so that other students could make use of them.
Said Hahn: “You get a warm feeling inside knowing someone will pick up your old book you’re no longer using and that it will make a positive impact on their life.”
Added Zhang: “From student-to-student, we’re all just students helping each other live through the pandemic together.”
The girls say they plan to continue their efforts to collect and donate books now that in-person school has resumed.
They are expanding their outreach, inviting other students at different schools to join Dynamite Book Club, and are in the process of setting up a program at El Sol Academy in Santa Ana to provide more books, as well as volunteers to read to younger elementary school children.
Said Law: “If [our efforts] put a book into the hands of a kid and makes that one kid happy, it’s all worth it.”