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 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.
AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATORS— bob shea (@bobshea) March 23, 2016
A little girl at @colbysharp 's school had her house burn down THIS PAST MONDAY. Her name is Heidi.
She lost all her books. Let's send her some. @colbysharp— bob shea (@bobshea) March 23, 2016
385 Elizabeth St, Parma, MI 49269
Heidi was most upset about losing a writing desk, her books and school supplies.— bob shea (@bobshea) March 23, 2016
If that doesn't get you, you're made of stone. @colbysharp
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. She is staying there, along 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 recent death 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.”