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Special reward for some special children

First Book-Philadelphia was impressed with the work being done at the Kinder Academy-Mayfair child-care center, and agreed to provide a $1,200 grant.

Carolyn Ashburn, chairwoman of the local First Book chapter, was so impressed during her on-site visit that she recommended the child-care center for an additional award.

New York-based KIND Healthy Snacks likes to perform random acts of kindness and was seeking to reward a deserving Philadelphia agency.

That’s when First Book-Philadelphia pointed the New York company to the good work being done at Kinder Academy-Mayfair.

Two weeks ago, representatives of First Book and KIND visited the center, located for the last nine years inside Mayfair Presbyterian Church at 6300 Harbison Ave., to deliver $2,000 worth of books.

The snack company’s motto is, “Do the KIND thing.”

“It’s really our social mission to make the world a little kinder,” said Mari Lee, the company’s vice president of field marketing.

Lee traveled from Chicago. She was joined by a New Yorker, Stephen Rawlins, and two locals, Morgan Greene and Michael Bernardo.

Leslie Spina, executive director of Kinder Care, explained that the company strives to offer a high-quality preschool program, not a baby-sitting service.

Tracia Walzer directs the Mayfair site, which cares for 130 children. The preschool is available to kids ranging from infants to pre-kindergarten age. There’s also an after-school program for students up to fourth grade.

Spina said she is very appreciative that KIND chose a Kinder Academy site for a donation.

“They have a commitment to community and literacy,” she said.

Spina added that First Book has been a great partner in the past.

“They’ve been kind to us for many years,” she said.

The child-care center director said some of the books will be sent home with children in hopes that their parents will read to them. Others will remain at the center.

“You can never have enough books,” she said.

First Book, founded in 1992, is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

When local board members walked into classrooms on May 25, the Kinder Academy kids sang Happy Birthday to mark the charity’s 19th anniversary.

Holly Rutkowski, a board member, explained that First Book has donated about 80 million books to 25,000 agencies over the years. Last year, 28,000 new books were distributed in Philadelphia.

“Study after study shows that kids who love reading are on their way to literacy, stay in school and make good choices,” Rutkowski said.

The books were placed on shelves or handed directly to the youngsters. Rawlins read Swimmy to the children, while Bernardo chose The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Greene recited Skeleton Hiccups and Caps for Sale.

Besides providing books, the KIND officials handed all-natural whole nut and fruit bars to parents as they dropped off their children.

The folks from KIND and First Book were glad to hear that Kinder Academy has raised money for victims of the natural disasters in Japan and Louisiana and to see a tree filled with ornaments noting the kind acts of the children.

“It’s a great example of trying to raise kids to show them it’s not all about them, it’s about the whole world,” Rutkowski said.

“We’re embracing them and rewarding them for that,” Lee said. ••

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