For years Patrick Bonner has been telling his 10-year-old daughter, Stella, the same bedtime story, about a girl who could transport herself into any storybook using a magic pencil, adding more to the tale each night. About a year ago father and daughter decided they should write the story down, but struggled to find the time. That changed during quarantine, and when they finished their manuscript for “Darien the Librarian,” it totaled more than 200 pages and 50,000 words.
Patrick, who has always loved telling stories but wrote them only as a hobby, suggested they try to get their book published. Stella had other ideas.
“Some people don’t have the money to put food on the table, or get clothes for themselves, or send their kids to school,” she said. “I wanted them to have that opportunity.”
Inspired by other online fund-raisers that benefit charitable causes, the two decided to set up a campaign on Facebook for Feeding America, a nonprofit that manages a network of food pantries, soup kitchens, and other initiatives to curb food insecurity in the country. Anyone who donates $10 or more to Feeding America receives a virtual copy of the Bonners’ book.
Patrick originally set the fund-raising goal at a lofty $500, expecting mainly family members and some friends to contribute. “Behind Stella’s back, my wife and I thought we’d get maybe $200,” he said.
To his surprise, the campaign met its original goal less than two hours after it went live on May 7. So far, it has collected over $26,500 from more than 670 donors across the world.
Feeding America’s website says that every $1 donated can provide more than 10 meals to children and families in need, so Patrick and Stella estimate their fund-raiser will be able to supply over 260,000 meals.
“Darien the Librarian” follows two protagonists, both 10 years old, in a parallel narrative. One story line is set in the 1980s, inspired by Patrick’s childhood in Milton, and one in the present, inspired by Stella’s experiences growing up in Dracut.
When they started writing their manuscript, they shared drafts and new chapters with family members and friends, who offered positive feedback. “One time my cousin called in a panic because he thought we were ending the book on a cliffhanger,” Stella said.
Aside from the money raised, Patrick said he was amazed by the reach of the campaign.
“There’s this togetherness about it that is really the best part of it, for me at least,” he said. “We definitely exceeded the number we wanted to exceed, but it’s also helped hold a lot of the isolation of quarantine at bay when you feel connected to other people.”