#OrangeNation Book Do(me)nation

Organized by: Kerry Sheldon

Kerry's Photo
Kerry's Photo
Kerry's Photo


This is not the way my dad and I envisioned it.  A #1 seed.  Cruising to the Sweet 16 out of Buffalo. Winning the East regional at MSG.  Headed back to the Final 4.  

But, ever since we (sidenote: in case it's not clear, the "we" here means the team, the 20 year old kids we've never met, not my dad and I)  donned the throwback uniforms, fortunes changed.   BTW, let’s never do that again.  Thanks but no thanks, Nike.

But, no matter what happens, we are still the town that puts 35,000 in the dome to watch a college basketball game.  A town that, 20 times a year, during the nation’s harshest winter, sees 25,000 people suit up, dig out, and venture up the Hill. Not students.  Not alumni.  Mostly hard-working, blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth neighbors like my 72-year old parents who've been making this walk for the 30+ years the dome has been open.  We carry our shared love for the team, the coach, basketball and the town.   OrangeNation shows up.  It's what we do.

So, while the Final Four may be a long shot, it's never safe to bet against OrangeNation. OrangeNation shows up at road games all over Tobacco Road. And it can show up even when the next gathering around Jim Boeheim Court (or any court for that matter) won't come again until late October. [NOTE: this paragraph is not working]

What We Need & What You Get

Approximately 350 1st graders attend school within two miles of the Dome.  About 90% come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for free or reduced lunch.  If they are like most low income kids, their reading level will slip nearly ¼ to ½ a grade level over the summer while school is out.  Their 2nd grade teachers will spend the fall months re-teaching the 1st grade material lost over the summer.

But, 10 books per kid before the summer break prevents the slide (see studies below).   With 3,500 books (AKA: one book for every 10 people that attended the epic Syracuse-Duke game), OrangeNation could help every 1st grader within the shadow of the Dome start 2nd grade ready to learn new material on day 1 (or for those of you that keep time this way: two months before the treks up the hill to the Dome start anew).

So, why is the campaign goal $1,500? Well, that’s one classroom of 1st grade kids (plus a little extra for the kids that choose the $6 books).  25 six year olds with cool things to read all summer long.  One happy 2nd grade teacher that can start teaching 2nd grade material in September.  

But, to be honest, we’re really hoping we bring in $5,000.  Here’s why.  We are kinda worried about picking one 1st grade class when there are two (or three or four) other 1st grade classes in the same school.  Who wants to do that? It sounds awful.  So, we’d really like to avoid this awful part, and just keep the amazing bit.

Because some kids have more than one friend (not all of us know what this feels like), you might want to give more, so they can all read together.  $250?  $500?  You choose.



What if we don’t reach the goal:

Well that happens some times.  We really don’t think that’s happening here, but it could.  So, here’s what we will do.  If we don’t raise enough money to provide books to a full classroom, 100% of the money raised will be donated to this group:  Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County

Their Imagination Library project sends every child in four Syracuse city zip codes a new, age-appropriate, book to their home each month until their fifth birthday.  Pretty amazing right?  No matter what, you are helping kids in Syracuse neighborhoods learn how to read. 

But really, who wants kids that have received a book a month from birth to age 5 go cold turkey once they hit first grade. So, let’s meet the goal. 

(Also, if I can’t figure out how to get the books to the kids at the schools before summer, 100% of the money raised will be donated to the Imagination Library project.) 

The Impact

This is the part you will love. Studies show that giving kids books to read over the summer is as effective as attending summer school and  more effective than if the kid’s school adopted a national school reform model.  In one study, students that received 10 books of their choice before summer break scored higher on Florida’s state-mandated test of reading achievement by 35-40% of a grade level than peers that did not receive books. And it only costs $50-75 per child.

It’s so simple. No buildings need to open.  No teachers need to be hired.  No bureaucratic challenges need to be overcome.  No tax dollar needs to be spent.  People like me and you can make a difference, and it doesn’t depend on anyone else.

A few more points:

  • The availability of reading material is considered one of the strongest predictors of a child's ability to read and succeed academically.  The ratio of age-appropriate books per child has been found to be 13 to 1 in middle-income neighborhoods, but just 1 for every 300 children  in low-income neighborhoods.
  • Students from low-income families "...experience an average summer learning loss in reading achievement of over two months." Not only do these students suffer greater sliding during the summer, they also experience cumulative effects of greater learning loss each summer.
  • According to the authors of a report from the National Summer Learning Association: " It's common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.


Why am are we doing this?

My parents are school teachers.  They taught for more than 30 years in Syracuse-area public schools.  Many of you may have been their students.  Five aunts and uncles taught in Syracuse-area or New York state public school systems.  My grandfather was a teacher, football coach, principal, and superintendent at the Minoa School District after the war until 1959, before moving on to become superintendent at Hempstead School District (Long Island) and the Baltimore City School District (Maryland).  He came back home in his later years to work for Syracuse University. 

My mom was the first and only person from her family to go to college.  Her mother worked for GE after the war.  Her father was the Assistant Fire Chief at GE's Electronics Park.  While the GE paid the bills, nothing made my grandpa happier than his 5+ years as Chief of the Volunteer East Syracuse Fire department.

This is my legacy.  My grandparents have all passed away.  My parents and their siblings are getting older.  Both generations passed down three things that are cherished parts of my identity:

  • A love for this town and its people
  • A love for Syracuse sports and what it stands for
  • A belief that all kids, no matter what neighborhood they live in, can thrive with the right teacher and the right opportunity.

So this is the legacy I was born to carry out.  This is the first step of a journey for me.  Two years from now, I’d like to be doing this full time -  helping all Syracuse fans fulfill their own legacies through service and charity to their beloved community.  I hope you will join me on this ride.


Why do you want cash?  Why can’t I give books?

What if someone gave you a book about Cameron Indoor Stadium and you wanted to read about the Carrier Dome?  Ok, that analogy doesn’t quite work.  But the point is that the kids need to pick out their own books.  They need to have the experience of selecting books that they want to read.  That’s a big difference:  choosing to be readers rather than being told to read.  Kids also need to pick out books on things that interest them (this is where that Cameron Indoor Stadium analogy comes in, or doesn’t).  And, let’s not forget: this is summer, after all.  I won’t ask you about the high quality material you plan to read this summer. If you aren’t convinved, the studies show that it doesn’t matter what books the kids read, as long as they read the books.  Let’s let the kids pick their books.

Why can’t I make a donation to a non-profit directly?

You can.  That would be great. I think Imagination Library does amazing work.  In fact, it’s not just me that thinks that. But, they won’t be giving 10 books to first graders attending school near the Dome this summer.  That’s not their project. It's ours.

Remember, non-profits are businesses just like the business you work for.  They have contracts and day-to-day obligations.  Just like your employer (unless your employer is a public school system.  Ok, I kid), they can’t, and shouldn’t, switch gears at the drop of a hat.  They have clients, vendors, contractors and commitments. 

I can do this project for the cost of the books.  I will hustle and grind for hours to figure out how to get the books to the kids. I don’t need a non-profit to do this, and I shouldn't ask them to do it.  They have other things to do. Like win awards for advancing literacy.

Is this donation tax deductible?

No.  I am just a person with a social security number.  I won’t give it to you, and the IRS wouldn't accept it if I did.  Because, while I will act charitably, the IRS just doesn’t see it the same way. 

If you want to make a tax deductible contribution, there are a lot of great nonprofits working hard in Syracuse.  But, if you want to get books to kids (or just prove that Syracuse fans are great), we will get it done.  Here’s how I see it.  You won’t get your 20% tax break on every dollar you donate to this campaign .  But, beacuse I am eating the cost to operate this program, your post-tax dollar is going just as far as your pre-tax dollar donation to a charity that has to pay it's staff, and pay it's electric bills.   

Where do your facts come from?

Well, I don’t have definitive proof that Syracuse fans are better than everyone else.  It’s just a gut feel.  But, stick with me because the rest of the facts are more solid than that.  

The stats on the impact of giving books to elementary school kids are as sound as you can get.  Most work done in the social sector does not have much evidence behind it.  This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work or isn’t effective.  It simply means that the money needed to run an evaluation is often better spent simply running the program and helping people.  But this program not only has evidence, but it is one of just five programs in the area of K-12 Education that is qualifies as "top tier" or "near top tier" by the Coalition for Evidence Based Policy.  It works, it doesn’t get much better than that

The stats on the schools are back of the napkin accurate.  I used data from the 2012 [SCHOOL REPORT CARDS].

What schools will benefit? What if the school doesn’t want the books?

I don’t know yet, but here’s what I will do.  I will start with schools where more than 90% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch.  Then I will approach each one based on distance from the Dome until I find one or more than are willing to work with me to get these books to the kids before summer break.  If I can’t find a school that will do this, or if I can’t find enough schools to fully do this, I will donate the funds to the Imagination Library.


Other Ways You Can Help - FINISH THIS

Some people just can’t contribute, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help:

  • Ask folks to get the word out and make some noise about your campaign.
  • Remind them to use the Indiegogo share tools!

And that’s all there is to it.


Organized by

Kerry Sheldon

This is a direct to organizer fundraiser.

Donor Comments

Kerry is still setting up this fundraiser so please check back so you can support #OrangeNation Book Do(me)nation.

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