This spring we launched an epic contest with two-time Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo and Candlewick Press.

The Challenge: Tell us something you’ve done to strengthen your community and inspire hope.

The Reward: For five grand-prize winners, a limited-edition Little Free Library book exchange inspired by Kate DiCamillo’s work, along with autographed copies of her books. For three runners-up, standard copies of Kate DiCamillo books.

We were flooded with more than 4,200 entries from individuals doing inspiring things in their communities—from collecting socks for homeless shelters to raising money for cancer research. The thousands of stories we read overwhelmed us; we saw how even small acts of kindness and compassion could spark hope and have a significant impact on the world.

“Hope matters so much to me. It’s one of the things that I’m always working toward in my stories, and Little Free Libraries do that, too. They’re kind of like hope in a box,” DiCamillo said in the press release.

Today we’re thrilled to announce the winners of the BIG Kate DiCamillo Little Free Library Giveaway! Check out the winners below, and read each of their inspiring stories:

Grand-Prize Winners

Gina Blewitt and Courtney Tucker | Rosenhayn, New Jersey

“We try to instill the importance of giving back to the community. My partner teacher and I, with the help of our third graders and our school community, collected over 600 pairs of socks for the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition to help the homeless stay warm over the winter. ‘Socktober’ was a HUGE success for our first time. We collected over 600 pairs in the month of October. Our students were so excited to help that they made flyers, created and hung signs in the community, and even made a video to share to get the word out that socks are one of the least donated items to homeless shelters. Our students were surprised to learn how many people actually go without wearing socks. They were proud of their accomplishments and felt great that at 8 years old they could make such a big difference.”

Rachel Day | Parkland, Florida

“Last year, on February 14, 2018, one person created great conflict in my world, Parkland, Florida. A boy went into our high school and started shooting, leaving seventeen dead and the whole town scared. How did this happen? The boy got so angry at life, he took it out on those poor people. The boys’ brother visited him in jail. He hugged him, although the boy was chained to his chair. The boy cried and took in all his brother’s kindness. What if someone had been kind to him even an hour before the shooting? Kindness makes the difference!

“For 3 years, I’ve participated in a backpack event with Kids4Kids. We take backpacks and supplies to migrant worker camps. These supplies make the kids feel happy and confident. Also, every month, we pack bagged lunches for a local shelter. We invite people over to our house to do it with us and more people are getting involved! Lastly, I’m working with the city for my bat mitzvah project to bring Little Free Libraries to parks! I like the idea of people having something to do besides stare at their phones. This can be upsetting because of bad news or feelings of isolation. Plus, I like the idea of people seeing the libraries and finding their OWN ways to improve the community.

“One person can create conflict, but one person can also create acts of kindness that affect others in a positive way and persuade other people to do the same.”

Rachel is an 11-year-old student at Westglades Middle School. Thank you to her mother, Robin Day, for sponsoring her contest entry.

Elizabeth Lyon | Port Townsend, Washington

“I read The Tale of Despereaux to my class every year, regardless of whether it’s a group 4th graders, or a class of 7th grade science students. I read it to them if they have never been in my class, and I read it to them if they’ve had me for three years and have heard it three times already. They always come away with a dollop more hope, and I’ve never had anyone say ‘oh, no, I’ve heard this one before.’ They just settle in, content to be back with old friends.

“This month, I also bet my 7th graders that they couldn’t raise $5,000 dollars for childhood cancer treatment funding, and if they did, I would shave my head (see St. Baldrick’s Foundation). They raised $25,000—and gave me some cute knit beanies to keep my now-bald head warm.”

Erin Sears | Altoona, Iowa

“In our third grade classroom, we talk often about being agents of change. Students learn that every person is capable of showing empathy and taking meaningful action to help others. As an educator, I know that one of the most tangible things I can do to spread hope at our school and in our community is to get students involved in service-learning projects. Last year, I coordinated a school-wide fundraiser to benefit the Puppy Jake Foundation, which enables veterans in our community to have highly trained service dogs to help them with their needs. Students in our third-grade class loved speaking about this project to others and raising awareness for the foundation. In the end, our school was able to award Puppy Jake with a check for nearly $1,000. The power of service learning in school is that students feel the strength of their own voice and their ability to do good in the world.

“If I am selected for the Kate DiCamillo Little Free Library, I would like to have it placed in front of our school, Willowbrook Elementary in Altoona, Iowa. We’re big Kate DiCamillo fans in this building and having the Little Free Library at our school would make it possible for neighborhood children and their families to enjoy reading year round. Our Little Free Library would continue to send the message to our community that school is a place of hope and possibility and that reading brings joy.”

Ayla Tucker | Shasta, California

“Hope is being inspired daily within my small historic community. In 2018, the Carr Fire in Northern California devastated our community and burned about 500 homes within our community of approximately 1,100. Now in recovery, my community is rebuilding and coming together to lift each other up, support those who have lost homes and furry family members. When normalcy is disrupted, even small tasks inspire resilience and hope. It isn’t just myself who pushes forwarded but our small school, our only convenience store, and numerous community members who believe in our community and who believe in overcoming. Hope is inspired through hugs, words of comfort, “Shasta Strong” signs displayed everywhere, and refusing to stay down when a fire has destroyed so much. The fire may have taken so much from my community but it has not taken our hope. We are resilient and we will rise from the ashes stronger than before.”

Runner-Up Winners

Charla Bregante | Goleta, California

“My book club banded together to create and maintain a Little Free Library at a laundromat in a low-income neighborhood. We strive to stock the library with culturally relevant and bilingual books and are happy when they find their way into the hands of young children and their families, whether the books are returned to the library or not. Our mission is to bring books to children and families where they are, to encourage parents to read aloud to their children, and to inspire a love of books and reading in under-served communities. We promote and/or partner with several organizations and campaigns including our local public library, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign, and our local independent bookstore. We are looking forward to hosting story times for young children, and other events as our library continues to grow.”

Betsy Irwin | Houston, Texas

“My community was devastated by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Most of us lost our homes and all our belongings. My dogs and I were rescued by strangers on a jet ski. Our public library was also flooded, and closed for almost a year. My sweet golden retriever, Lily, and I have been doing a family story time at our public library since it reopened. I read books to many kids that were affected by the hurricane and they hug Lily! I only hope that I am able to bring some joy and comfort to such a great community. I have also purchased a Little Free Library and want to stock it with books for my neighbors.”

Rebecca Oliver | Gainesville, Georgia

“I have created a bus, similar to the Bookmobiles of old, that provides free books to ages 1-99 throughout the summer months. The ‘Book Bus’ (yes, it was created from an old, small bus) relies on donations and volunteers from the community in order to ensure our community, especially our young people, has access to literature throughout the year.”

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