Authors Donate Hundreds of Books to Girl After Fire

Parma Elementary School(JACKSON, Mich.) -- Three tweets from a children’s books author have changed the life of an 8-year-old Michigan girl.

The author, Bob Shea, met Heidi VanSumeren, a second grader at Parma Elementary School, when he visited the Parma, Michigan, school for a presentation last month.

Just days before the presentation, Heidi had lost most of her belongings -- including her treasured books and beloved desk -- during a fire at her family’s home.

Shea learned of the tragedy from a teacher at Heidi’s school and selected the girl to help him during his presentation.

“After it was over, I asked, ‘Would it be alright if I just put it on Twitter that this girl needs books?,’” Shea told ABC News. “All of my followers are kid lit [children’s literature] people.”

Shea posted three tweets asking to help Heidi on March 23.

Two weeks later, Heidi has received more than 300 books in addition to gift cards for new clothes and a brand new Pottery Barn desk and bookshelf.

“It was such a simple thing to do,” Shea said of his tweets. “I couldn’t believe it. Everybody wanted to send stuff.”

The tweets picked up steam when they were retweeted and shared by Colby Sharp, the teacher who told Shea about Heidi and who also writes a children’s literature blog.

“They know that books save lives and that books are an escape for people going through tough times,” Sharp said of the authors and publishers who have sent books. “They couldn’t stand the thought of this little girl going without them.”

The donated books are being delivered to the elementary school, but Heidi has already made sure that they come home with her to her grandparents’ home, where she’s staying for now with her 16-year-old sister and her parents, Beth and Casey VanSumeren.

“We ended up with three backpacks and three big totes full of books,” said Beth VanSumeren. “She loves looking at every book because a lot of the authors signed them or wrote a message for her inside.”

VanSumeren described her daughter as a lover of books who uses them to cope with things like the family's house fire and the death last year of a beloved family member.

“Books are really special for her,” VanSumeren said of Heidi. “We can talk to her and try to explain but when she can read it on her own whenever she’s sad and needs help, that’s always been an easier way for her to understand things.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Check Also

Labrador retriever flunks out of bomb-sniffing school for not wanting to detect bombs

Labrador retriever flunks out of bomb-sniffing school for not wanting to detect bombsRuskpp/iStock/Thinkstock(MCLEAN, Va.) -- A Labrador retriever named Lulu has flunked out of bomb-sniffing school after she displayed to her handlers that she was no longer interested in detecting bombs, according to the CIA.

"We are sad to announce that Lulu has been dropped from the program," the CIA announced in a press release Wednesday.

Lulu did not make the cut to graduate with her fellow fall 2017 puppy classmates after she began to show signs that she wasn't interested in sniffing out explosive odors a few weeks into training.

We’re sad to announce that a few weeks into training, Lulu began to show signs that she wasn’t interested in detecting explosive odors.

— CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017

There are a million reasons why a dog has a bad day & our trainers must become doggy psychologists to figure out what will help pups.

— CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017

Pups often have off days when they're training for such an important job, the CIA said. The issue -- which can often be fixed with more playtime and breaks -- is often temporary.

"After a few days, the trainers work the pup through whatever issue has arisen, and the dog is back eagerly and happily ready to continue training," the CIA said. "But for some dogs, like Lulu, it becomes clear that the issue isn’t temporary."

Lulu wasn’t interested in searching for explosives.
Even when motivated w food & play, she was clearly no longer enjoying herself.

— CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017

Lulu was no longer motivated to search for explosives and was "clearly not enjoying herself any longer" when motivated to do so with food and play.

"It's imperative that the dogs enjoy the job they’re doing," the CIA said.

Trainers made the "extremely difficult decision" to drop Lulu from the program for her physical and mental well-being, the CIA said.

Lulu's handler adopted her, so she now enjoys cushy work-free days that include playing with his children and sniffing out rabbits and squirrels in the backyard. She even has a new friend -- a fellow Labrador retriever -- to hang out with all day.

Lulu was adopted by her handler & now enjoys her days playing w his kids & a new friend, & sniffing out rabbits & squirrels in the backyard.

— CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017

"We’ll miss Lulu, but this was the right decision for her," the CIA said. "We wish her all the best in her new life."

We’ll miss Lulu, but it was right decision for her & we wish her all the best in her new life!

— CIA (@CIA) October 18, 2017

Lulu's handler is still on the search for an explosive detection K-9 partner, the CIA said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.