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Books help children pass the time

The four Depies boys sat in a waiting room on the 16th floor of the Mayo Building, huddled around an open book.

"Never put a frog in the kitchen sink, kitchen sink, kitchen sink," read 8-year-old Cody, as his three younger brothers looked on.

The boys had just picked out a book each from the Mayo cart, which provides free books for kids waiting for appointments in the pediatric wing.

Now, a donation of 1,000 books and the promise of more will help volunteers continue to provide gifts for children at the clinic.



The book-giving is part of a year-old volunteer program focused on the 16th floor, which serves chronically ill children, said Christine Hindt, coordinator for Mayo Clinic Volunteer Services.

Volunteers also provide coloring pages and puzzles, and a retired science teacher sometimes comes in and shows experiments, Hindt said.

The gifts and interaction are especially important for patients on the 16th floor, she said. Children with cancer, diabetes or other serious illnesses get care from specialists all in one place, she said, which can be monotonous.

"Kids who come here spend a majority of their day up here," Hindt said. "The volunteering is designed to help provide some diversion and make their trip up here a little easier."

Helping Out

Volunteers Ella Cameron and Tara Poncelet have both been giving their time while school's out for the summer.

Cameron, an incoming junior at Mayo High School, and Poncelet, an incoming junior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, want to help children in their future careers.

For them, it's gratifying to know they're helping children during what can be a scary time.


One day, Poncelet saw two siblings who were upset and crying in the lobby. She offered to color with them, and in no time they were happy again.

"It just made their wait that much easier," Poncelet said.

The volunteers also lighten the load for nurses and staff, who have to deal with an average of 200 to 250 patients a day.

"It's very nice to have someone else that can help occupy the kids," said Wendy King, supervisor for the wing. "It keeps them occupied and there's not the tendency for them to get into mischief."

Read Indeed

Going through upwards of 50 books a day, the program can always use more books, Hindt said. Recently, the nonprofit organization Read Indeed bolstered their supply with a donation of about 1,000 books.

Read Indeed was founded in 2009 by Maria Keller, a 9-year old with big ideas. She started gathering books for needy children, with the goal of donating 1 million books by her 18th birthday. She's well on her way, with nearly 400,000 books collected so far.

The recent donation to the Mayo Clinic won't be the last. Read Indeed recently won a grant from the Rotary Club in Plymouth, Minn., that Hindt said will go toward buying more books for pediatric patients at the clinic.


For the Depies boys, the gift was perfect.

"They like books so this is right up their alley," said their mother, Katrina Depies. "And they're not running around or fighting. ... this is really nice."

Cody agreed.

"I like to read almost every day," he said, showing off his new Goosebumps book. "I'm like, 'Oh, I forgot to bring a book,' and then there comes the book cart. ... It's nice, I like it."

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