Taylor Felice: How I Ran a Half Marathon to Bring Books to Kids in Need

Taylor Felice, a dedicated supporter of First Book, recently ran the Brooklyn Half-Marathon. Not only did she accomplish the goal of running the race but she also accomplished something else – getting books into the hands of kids in need.

Taylor aimed to raise $1800 through First Book to provide 400 brand-new books to kids in need. She surpassed this goal and doubled it, raising $2,182.85 via a First Book virtual book drive. Due to Taylor’s tireless efforts, 873 brand-new books will be going into the hands of children in need.

First Book:  What made you want to run a half-marathon? Are you typically a runner and/or participate in a lot of races?

Taylor:  My brother’s girlfriend actually got me to run the half-marathon. She ran the Brooklyn Half-Marathon last year and while I was standing at the finish line l became completely overwhelmed with emotion. I watched hundreds of runners in all shapes and sizes crossing and decided that if they could do it, I could too. Before this, I was more of a causal runner that did it for the exercise and had participated in a few short races prior to training for the half-marathon.


First Book:  Out of all of the organizations you could have raised money for, why did you choose First Book?

Taylor:  My mom and her best friend, Shelly, began participating in a reading program at a school in New Haven – when she went to the library to pick out books, the shelves were basically bare. After they got over the initial shock, they began reaching out to friends and family all over Connecticut to collect new and gently used books to help make the library a “happy” destination for the students.

Before my mom told me about the school, I’d never really thought about the availability of a book. We always hear about poverty and the difficulty of getting people nutritious food and sufficient clothing but you’d think within the walls of a child’s school he or she would have access to reading materials.

I was fortunate to go to an elementary school with a library full of books as far as the eye could see.  I’ve always been interested in working with and helping children – and while attending Tulane University, I volunteered in the New Orleans public school system – one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. If I can give back to children in low-income housing like many of my former students and inspire them to continue for greatness, I’d consider this half-marathon and these fundraising efforts a success. When I started my research for an organization, I knew I wanted something in the children’s education sector and I decided on First Book because I love to read and after research, knew that the money I was asking family and friends for would truly make a difference.

First Book:  In some of the nation’s lowest-income neighborhoods, there is only a single book for every 300 children. As someone who is passionate about reading, how does this make you feel?

Taylor:   When I first saw this statistic, I was sad – that’s really the only way I can explain my initial response. After getting over the initial shock, I was disappointed – how could children be so far from the opportunity to read a book? How could I have been so naive to never have thought about the possibility that it would be so difficult for children to have the opportunity to turn a page in a fairytale? I know how much I appreciate and enjoy a good book and I hope that some of these children that may struggle in low-income neighborhoods can find an escape inside one of the books that they receive from First Book.

First Book:  Why do you think it’s so important for children to have access to brand-new books?

Taylor:  When you’re a child, something shiny and new is a source of pride – its yours and yours alone and it becomes a part of your identity. Whether it’s a toy, a new piece of clothing or in this case a book, donating something new to a child, instantly becomes special. I think it’s important for children to have books because it inspires imagination and sparks their creativity; as an adult, I still love to read and let my imagination wander along with the characters.

First Book:  Thanks to your outstanding efforts, at least 873 brand-new books will be going into the hands of children in need. (That number is of course still increasing by the day!) How does it make you feel to know that you are making such a huge impact?

Taylor:  At first I was proud that I’d made the decision to support a nonprofit – and then I was a little hesitant to start asking people for money. Once the money started coming in and I beat both my first and revised goals, I was humbled by the outpouring of generosity from friends and family.  Seeing the number of books is great but thinking about making 873 children smile is better than anything.

First Book:  What has prompted you to be so involved with volunteerism? Did someone in your family emphasize the importance of reading?

Taylor:  My family has been involved with charities and volunteer work for as long as I can remember – it’s part of who we are. My parents read to my brother and me a lot and my grandfather used to tell us that he didn’t care what we read as long as we read something. They all knew how important books were to our education and development.

To get brand-new books into the hands of kids in need like Taylor did, visit www.firstbook.org and start your very own virtual book drive today.