Ivy (left) and Jacob Hendrickson present Barbara Harris with the funds they raised to honour Gayle Harris’ memory. (Submitted photo)

‘Reading to Remember’: Surrey siblings raise money in memory of beloved librarian

Children raise $1,200 for Gayle Harris Memorial Education fund through summer reading campaign

A pair of Surrey siblings have honoured a librarian who seemingly left a lasting imprint on their hearts.

Eight-year-old Ivy Hendrickson and her 11-year-old brother Jacob were saddened when their beloved librarian, Gayle Harris, died unexpectedly earlier this year.

Their love for the librarian set them off on a journey to raise money to honour her memory, launching their “Reading to Remember Gayle” campaign that involved them vowing to each read for 50 hours over the summer, and collecting pledges for each hour they spent reading.

In all, the siblings read for a total of 102 hours, translating to donations totalling $1,200.

The money will go toward the Gayle Harris Memorial Education Fund, established by Gayle’s mother Barbara who donated an initial $100,000. The dollars will be used to provide annual grants to Surrey Libraries staff who are studying to get their Master of Library and Information Studies degree or Library Technician diploma.

Their mother, Kelly Hendrickson, said her children “really connected” with the Harris, who worked at the the City Centre Library in Surrey.

They visited the library weekly, from an early age, to participate in Harris’ story times. Kelly said this weekly routine and familiar face helped to fuel both kids’ appreciation for the library and to foster their love of reading.

“She was such a strong influence in their lives and they needed a way to process her loss so we all talked about it and came up with this idea as a way to focus on something positive,” Kelly said in a release.

Both Jacob and Ivy agreed that Gayle had a good sense of humour.

“And she was kind, and we were just good friends,” Jacob told the Now-Leader.

While Jacob first met Gayle when he was just two years old, attending “muffin story time,” he said their relationship blossomed over the years.

“When I got a little older, I started helping her with story time. We had a lot of connection,” he said.

Jacob said to reach their goal, both he and his sister read for “at least” 20 minutes every day throughout the summer.

“It just made me happy to be part of it, to raise money by reading to honour her memory.”

Barbara said she’s “touched” by the children’s efforts to remember Gayle.

“Reading is a super way of remembering Gayle as it was such a big part of her life…she sometimes missed her stop on SkyTrain because she was so engrossed in what she was reading,” she said. “I’m so proud to learn of these kids, their mom, and their wonderful tribute to Gayle.”

Seline Kutan, director of marketing and communications for Surrey Libraries, said the children’s efforts were “bittersweet, of course, because of course it’s in response to one of our beloved librarians passing away.”

“But it was such a heartwarming thing to know she touched the lives of so many children in our community and in such a meaningful way, that they were compelled to do something to give back and honour her in this way.”

Gayle first started with Surrey Libraries on July 5, 1999 and died in May of this year at the age of 44, survived by her husband and young son. She was just a couple months shy of reaching her 20th anniversary with Surrey Libraries.

She was one of the longest-serving youth services librarians in the city and was the senior children’s librarian at the City Centre branch.

“Gayle was passionate about serving the literacy development needs of the diverse Whalley community,” said Seline Kutan, director of marketing and communications for Surrey Libraries. “She made it her mission to get to know the families really well and to make changes to library services to ensure the needs of the community were being met.”

Gayle was instrumental in transforming early literacy programming at Surrey Libraries and incorporating play-to-learn elements into Baby Storytimes.

To make a donation to the Gayle Harris Memorial Education Fund, visit canadahelps.org/en/dn/m/41475/donation.

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