Ahwatukee second-grader Dustin Henry loves random acts of kindness.
He’s passed out candy canes to strangers during a vacation at Disneyland, he has conspired with his mom to pay for someone else’s meal in the McDonald’s drive-thru, and now he’s taking on his biggest act of kindness yet: organizing a book drive for Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Dustin, 7, originally got the idea from seeing a young girl on the news organizing her own toy drive for Christmas. He thought about the story for a while and approached his mom with an idea to have his own toy drive. Dustin’s mom, Dawn, thought it’d be nice to do something a little different and maybe set a goal to do it around Valentine’s Day. Together, the two decided to have a book drive and gather books for the kids at the hospital to be delivered on Valentine’s Day.
Originally a goal of 250 books was set, but that goal was met in one day once Dustin started telling his teacher, Cub Scout leader and soccer team about his plan. So he extended it to 500 books. That was reached quickly. One thousand? Done. Now, Dustin has a goal of 1,200 books, but his mom said with all the support they’ve been receiving she’s confident they could reach that in another few days.
“It’s kind of awesome,” Dustin said. “I just want to get more before I give them to the hospital.”
At Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary he’s been asked to announce his book drive on the morning announcements. After one day of being on the announcements, Dustin brought home more than 150 books.
“It’s overwhelming and amazing,” Dawn said. “We’ve been getting boxes shipped from California where we’re from. We got contacted by a children’s author out of Colorado. She’s sending one of her new releases to him. It’s all word of mouth. It’s amazing.”
Dawn said most people who have been donating are bringing dozens of books at a time.
“People don’t just donate one book,” she said. “They bring a bag of books or boxes of books. It’s something that we didn’t want people to have to spend money to do. Everyone has books at their home that they’ve read that they aren’t going to read again that are just sitting there. The hospital serves up to 21 years old so they can be adult books or kid books. Once you start going through your books you realize there are more books you can get rid of. I think so many people have realized that.”
Dustin is no stranger to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He has fainting seizures on occasion, the cause of which is unknown. Last year, over spring break, he spent three days in the hospital undergoing tests that monitored his brain waves.
During his stay, Dustin became familiar with a group called Child Life that provides kids with things to do. Representatives from the organization come around twice a day with new toys, books or crafts to try. That is the group Dustin is working with to donate the books.
The original plan was to pass the books out on the patient’s lunch trays on Valentine’s Day, but now that there are so many more books it’s unclear exactly where the books will go. The hospital does have places for books on each floor that the children can take back to their rooms. The books will be collected until Tuesday and will be delivered on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
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