The children's picture books based on the SPRiTELEES from Kindness Grove Knoll is a small venture I started in 2006. Having a BA and MBA, and choosing to stay home to raise my family, I felt humbled by my inability to help a friend when her child faced a grave diagnosis. Facing the need to fundraise for a cure while helping your child feel better in the moment is beyond overwhelming for anyone. I wanted to do something constructive and I realized that the seemingly endless number of causes makes it difficult to draw unique attention to a given charity today. So, in a SPRiTELEE manner of doing, I decided to use my interests and skills to try something new, take one small action at a time, and see where it might lead. The book series is the result of this commitment and it combines my three interests:
1. Inspiring preschool and school age children to be kind, (in hindsight, I think I should have been a kindergarten teacher)
2. Giving back in a visible way because the best way to teach is to lead by example, and
3. Helping, even if it is only in a small way, to raise awareness and funds for carefully chosen charities.
There are plans to have seven books in the series each benefitting a critical charity for children.
Five Amazing Talents That Collaborated On The SPRiTELEES Kindness Grove Knoll Series
The SPRiTELEES audio picture books are only possible because of the kindness and dedication of five incredible people that I have been honored to know and work with on these projects. Melinda Afman Shoals and Jennifer Geise Worthington spent hundreds of hours in their art studios to illustrate books one and two in the series to help me get started on my work with the SPRiTELEES. Chris Poon, a gifted musician, wrote the music that you hear on the original audio books. Next, Kate Sample, www.bostonbritvoice.com, shared her remarkable voice as narrator.
Most recently, as I completed a new SPRiTELEE book about Rane SPRiTELEE, I stumbled upon Joeetta Samuelson, a remarkably gifted artist. Joeetta has captured the essence of my seven beautiful characters beyond my wildest imaginings. I found her quite by happenstance and have to believe that our paths were destined to cross. She is completing her work on Rane's Wish, book one for the series, and dedicating the next few months to re-illustrating book two and the Christmas book for the series so that the seven books are cohesive in look and feel.
Suffice to say, I am deeply grateful and humbled by the talent and commitment I have found in all five of these talented, kindhearted people.
The first edition of the Christmas tale was released in hardcover in 2006 and sold 3,200 copies in 15 weeks! I was delighted that the book won the coveted iParenting Award and I was welcomed onto Fox News and New England Cable News which thrilled me as an opportunity to shed light on the need to fundraise for my first charity, a low grade astrocytoma brain tumor. I met amazing mothers that Christmas season who shared stories with me - about their children and their struggles with brain tumors - that changed my life. (Indeed, giving is often a gift to the giver.)
While I celebrated that I sold all of my inventory, the expense involved in printing, storing, and shipping hard cover books meant that my print run wasn't going to break even. Nonetheless, I donated any money made on sales to my charity. As my goal was to fundraise effectively, I decided that I had to be smarter about my business approach, and so I waited for technology to catch-up. My theory was that e-books would allow me to share the books, generate the awareness, and minimize expenses, a winning business combination. However, the viability and desirability of readable picture books as e-books remained an obstacle.
Despite the fact that I wasn't sure how I was going to distribute my books in a cost effective manner, The SPRiTLEES stayed with me, compelling me to revisit my commitment. Moms in town would stop me in the grocery store or out on dog walks and ask, "Aren't you, Marcia Stankard? We have your SPRiTELEE christmas book and my children make me read it EVERY Christmas even though they have outgrown it! Did you write any other books?" There was an amazing elementary school, Memorial Elementary, whose second grade teacher, Mrs. Karen Morelli, had incorporated my book into her second grade curriculum. Each year, I would revisit Memorial and she gave me amazing presents handmade by her classroom -- second graders showing me their definition of "being SPRiTELEE". Each time I was invited to a school to share my stories, I never asked for a stipend, I asked that any monies they felt like donating should go to my causes directly. Fueled by the reaction to my characters and my books, I would decide that I had to keep going. I even went to visit Peter Reynolds because I respect his work so much and he told me, "Marcia, this is worth pursuing. Please keep going." And of course the work of creating a second book and writing a third book. These are the ways I stayed involved with my passion, albeit in a back-burner kind of way.
In 2013 and 2014, a personal situation triggered a reaction to re-engage in a real way with my efforts to do more for these causes. My daughter's dear friend was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. She bravely fought her cancer for 14 months and lost her battle in February of 2014. And trust me when I say, this special child was a SPRiTELEE. Her spirit before and after her diagnosis -- were the epitome of zestful kindness. We mourn her passing deeply. I was motivated to reconsider my charity efforts.
Luckily for me, the passing of time allowed Apple devices to improve and enhance the quality of what we can do on a portable device. A couple months ago, I questioned if an audio book put into a movie file might allow us to maximize a window of technological opportunity. And that is what we've created to share for our fundraising efforts.
Finally! All of the work and love that has gone into making the first three books in the series, and I can celebrate that they aren't on my hard drive gathering dust anymore! These adorable audio books can go out into the world and raise awareness for our charities. If by sharing the audio files, demand for SPRiTELEE hardcover books surfaces, I may revisit that platform, because I never want children to lose the benefit of a bedtime story snuggled up with mom and dad.
Please "View" each audio book in the series and help each of our children's charities.
Just think what a difference we can make together...one story at a time!