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As Kathy Chapiewsky prepared to ride off into the sunset and begin her retirement after 45 years with Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, Wisconsin, she found herself in tears even before her retirement party got started. Some of those tears, of course, were for the friends, co-workers and colleagues she was leaving behind. And then there was the giant stack of books sitting on a table nearby.
“I walked into my retirement party, and they had all of the books piled up,” Kathy tells us. “It was fantastic.” As is the story behind those stacks of books.
The books were a way for Kathy to do one more thing for young patients and visitors at the Family Health Clinic before she started a new chapter in her life. Kathy tells us that she enjoyed working with the “Reach Out and Read Program” at the medical center. But she had begun to notice that some young readers-in-training were missing out. “The (Franciscan Healthcare) Auxiliary buys books to give to young patients and visitors at the hospital,” she says. “The books are geared toward kids ages 1 to 5, and those for the 5-year-olds were going faster than the others.” Kathy tells the LaCrosse Tribune that meant some older kids weren’t getting books at their well-child visits. “And they don’t like that,” she says. And neither did she.
So, to help make sure the literary supply kept up with demand, the Tribune reports that Kathy launched a book drive she called “Chap’s Challenge.” In just a few short weeks, it helped bring in more than 500 additional books for children ages 5 to 8. “It started on our team, and then others started bringing in books,” Kathy says. “Now we can give them all a book.” One of Kathy’s co-workers and fellow nurse, Amy Pickering-Schneider, tells the Tribune she’s not at all surprised by the success of Kathy’s book drive. “Kathy is the most giving person you will ever meet,” she says. “She is simply a pure heart.”
And though Kathy tells us “Chap’s Challenge” was a “one-time thing” that she wanted to do before she retired, she says she hopes the books she’s leaving behind will have the same kind of lasting impact that books and reading have had for her and her own family. “Reading is very important to my family,” she says. “And these new books are going to help every one of these young patients.”
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