Fifth graders Vance Tomasi and Chase Hartman conducted a book drop at the Oldsmar Public Library on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2017. Since August, the “kidpreneurs” have donated more than 25,000 books to area schools, hospitals and libraries through their read.repeat initiative.
What started as a whim to help schools that had been hit by hurricanes in Louisiana last summer has turned into a massive book donating endeavor by “kidpreneurs” Chase Hartman and Vance Tomasi, as the fifth graders have now donated more than 25,000 books through their read.repeat initiative since August.
The Mary Bryant Elementary School students started their efforts after seeing on the news the devastating toll the storms had on the schools, and since then, they have conducted drops of more than 4,000 books to area Title I schools, more than 1,000 copies to the James Hayley Veterans Hospital, and, earlier this week, 300 books to the Oldsmar Public Library.
Chase Hartman (l) and Vance Tomasi delivered 300 books to the Oldsmar Public Library on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2017 as part of their read.repeat initiative.
But despite the immense success of Hartman’s and Tomasi’s project—they’ve already been featured on the local news and have spoken to city government representatives—the boys have one big problem: storage space. Or more specifically, a lack of storage space.
“We probably have 750 books in the garage right now, so we’re hoping to get a storage space,” 11-year-old Tomasi, the more garrulous of the pair who serves as the duo’s unofficial spokesperson, said during the Oldsmar book drop.
“I told the mayor a few weeks ago we need storage, so we’ll see what happens.”
“We need to sort and organize the books in order to bring them to the right places,” Hartman, 10, said, adding, “If we didn’t have to do it all in my garage, it would be much easier.”
Indeed, the fact that these two young men, both Cub Scouts, avid readers and excellent students, have been able to deliver more than 25,000 books in a little more than six months using only kid (and parent) power, a temporary storage space and suburban two-car garage is an incredible testament to the boys’ entrepreneurial spirt and desire to help others.
Kim Parrish (r) and Amanda Tomasi help their sons deliver books to the Oldsmar Public Library on Feb. 15, 2017.
“When they first told us about it, I thought their goal of 20,000 books was a bit extreme,” Hartman’s mom, Kim Parrish, said. “But they’ve worked so hard to reach that goal. It’s inspiring.”
“To see kids work on a goal like this and achieve what they have so far is astounding,” she added. “People are pretty shocked, but these kids are Cub Scouts and overachievers, so it makes sense that they’ve been able to accomplish something like this.”
For Tomasi and Hartman, the endeavor is both fun and fulfilling.
“When we bring the books to the schools, the kids are in disbelief,” Tomasi said. “They can’t believe it. They’re like, ‘You have Harry Potter!’”
“They’re very thankful when they see what kind of books we’re delivering,” Hartman said, noting they have to carefully sort every book so they don’t deliver children’s books to a VA hospital or adult fare to schools.
With help from Palm Harbor based used bookseller 2 Swell Guys, as well as others who donate everything from crime thrillers to cook books to the cause, the boys have amassed a large inventory of books.
Vance Tomasi (front) and Chase Hartman (back) get a little help from their friends and siblings delivering books to the Oldsmar Public Library on Feb. 15, 2017.
After being kicked out of their previous storage area, that led the pair to plead with the Oldsmar City Council for help recently.
“I was wondering if you could, like, buy us like a storage space, because our old storage space we’re not allowed to be in anymore,” Tomasi asked the council on January 3, 2017.
“So maybe if you could, like, keep it up for another three months, we might be able to hit like another 10,000 or 15,000 (books).”
While the council members said they would do what they could to help get the word out and find them a space, the kids remain committed to delivering their books to schools, hospitals, libraries and other places with or without enough room to store them.
“As long as we keep getting books we can donate, we’ll keep doing it,” Vance said.
“We’re fully committed to supporting them,” Parrish added. “So who knows when we’ll get our garage back?!”
For more information on Vance Tomasi and Chase Hartman’s book donation initiative, visit read.repeat.org.