A little library for a considerable cause
By Kris Leonhardt
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – “Our son Elliot was born at 25 weeks gestation (15 weeks early) and spent 96 days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at Marshfield Children’s Hospital,” recalled Ryan Victory.
“When Elliot was born, we weren’t able to hold him for nearly two weeks. His eyes were still fused shut, and he was living and growing in an isolette (a plastic box to help keep him safe.) The only way we could really interact with him was by talking to him, and the NICU nurses recommended we read children’s books to him.
“Books provided a structured and soothing way to interact with Elliot even though we couldn’t touch or hold him.
“We read to him nearly every single day as a way to bond with him and to ensure that he heard our voices. The nurses told us how reading to babies also helped stimulate their brain development, a crucial thing for a baby as early as he was.
“Today, Elliot is a healthy five-year-old (almost six) and we want to give hope to other families and share our story.”
Seeing a local need and a way to assist other families, Ryan and his wife, Katie, created “Elliot’s Little Library.”
“NICU families have quite the challenge, normally parents bond with their baby through holding them, feeding them, rocking them, etc. In the NICU, that is often not a possibility. We definitely feel that books changed our lives during that time and want to ensure that other families have this opportunity,” Ryan explained.
“My wife Katie and I started Elliot’s Little Library back in 2017, but back then it was simply a set of 24 books that we donated to the Marshfield Children’s Hospital NICU ourselves. Those books included a bookmark with our story and we designated them to go to families that would likely have a NICU stay similar to ours (our son was in the NICU for 96 days). We did this again in 2018, but started talking about trying to ‘go bigger.’
“In 2019, we asked friends and family for help donating books. Our goal was to have enough books to donate to Marshfield so that every baby with a stay longer than one week would get a book. We were successful and donated 225 books to the hospital. In 2020, we had even more success; we received so many books that we expanded to the Stevens Point NICU (at St. Michael’s Hospital) and the Aspirus Wausau Hospital NICU.
“In 2021, we received enough books to start talking to our fourth NICU location.”
Ryan said that they will soon be expanding and that their next location will be in the Appleton area.
They recently kicked off their 2022 Book Drive. Books may be purchased at www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2KR0YID2HZQY7 and will be delivered right to the charity and packed up for NICU donation. Monetary gifts can be donated via https://elliotslittlelibrary.org. Brand new books or checks may be sent to Little Libraries, Inc., P.O. Box 954, Stevens Point, WI, 54481-0954.
Donations should be made by Sept. 17.
“For this year, our goal of 1,000 books will likely allow us to start looking for a fifth NICU,” Ryan said.