One of the books I read to kick off my hundred-book challenge of 2012 was Decade of Hope: Stories of Grief and Endurance from 9/11 Families and Friends, by Dennis Smith. The author interviewed many people who were deeply and personally affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including Robert and Barbara Jackman, parents of Brooke Jackman, who was only 23 when she died in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
The stories in this book were all moving, but Brooke's seemed special to me. She had just started a new job at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 104th floor of the North Tower, and was able to make one of the last outgoing phone calls from the WTC to say goodbye to her family. Her story tugged at my heartstrings. In some ways, I identified with her. Her parents describe Brooke as someone who "was always reading", someone who stopped in at Borders every evening on the way home from work. To honor her memory, they started the Brooke Jackman Foundation (TBJF).
The Foundation provides reading programs and literacy services for at-risk and underprivileged youth, to commemorate Brooke's love of reading, her helpfulness, and her desire to be of service. TBJF distributes brand-new books -- one for every child -- to the children participating in its programs. For several years following 9/11, the Jackman family and their community gathered together to stuff backpacks with books and school supplies, but now the operation has grown beyond that scale -- over 10,000 backpacks filled! In addition to providing disadvantaged youth in the New York City area with back-to-school supplies, "Brooke Packs" were also distributed to 200 children who had experienced the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in the Southern US in 2004. The Foundation promotes parents and children reading together, an activity which strengthens family bonds and improves literacy skills. In partnership with the Books for Kids foundation, the Brooke Jackman Foundation has opened four small libraries in sites such as domestic violence family shelters and the Crimes Against Children Bureau at the Kings County District Attorney's office. On top of all this excellent work, TBJF grants funding to outside literacy service providers in schools and non-profit organizations.
This month, I donated the funds I earmarked for charity to the Brooke Jackman Foundation, because I believe that they are doing good work encouraging children and their families to love books. In my own life and career, I want to promote reading for everyone, especially children. What Brooke's family is doing though the Foundation is inspiring and uplifting. I hope that they will continue to grow even more in the next ten years.