It is an incredible thing to be living my dream. These last 10 years have been full of “pinch me” moments and the fear that I would wake to find I had simply been dreaming. There were even a few times I felt more like a character in a movie than a woman living her dream. And yet, it is true. This is my life. Bess the Book Bus is real. I am amazed and humbled to find myself here. I did not nor could not have done this myself. Sure, it took a leap of faith to start Bess, but the faith I had wasn’t only in myself. It was the faith that my friends and family would support me, that my community would back me, and that enough people would believe in my dream of making books accessible to all children to make it come true. And they did.
Bess has been through some tough times. Many of which left us days from having to close the doors. We have been out of books, out of money, and even out of a vehicle. In fact, that is how we ended up in this wonderful partnership with Transitions Optical and VSP Vision Care. When they heard of our plight of being out of all three in 2009, they stepped up to help. They surprised us on the CBS Early Show and sponsored one of our favorite schools in Tampa, Westshore Elementary.
Every student received the gift of healthy sight through vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams, and new glasses with Transitions Lenses when needed. It was a wonder. More than 25 percent of our students received brand new glasses that week. And that was just the beginning of an unbelievable relationship that has changed the path of the bus and put success in sight for our kids.
Almost four years, thousands of pairs of new glasses, and 400,000 books later, we are crossing the country together for our fourth Success is in Sight Tour. The Transitions/VSP partnership has made it possible for tens of thousands of our kids to experience the joy of reading through book ownership. Even better, these same kids have been given the gift of healthy sight. Bess travels alongside Eyenstein, the Mobile Vision Clinic which gives our kids in need free eye exams and glasses on the spot. Amazing, right?
Each trip has allowed us to grow stronger. We have met amazing kids, parents, teachers, volunteers, community partners like Citgo, Townsend Press, First Book and Capstone Publishers and even favorite authors, all who have helped us go that next mile.
Now the Transitions/VSP team is partnering with bloggers and authors to do the Eyecare About Reading national book drive, making it easy for anyone, anywhere to help give free books and healthy sight to kids. Here is how you can help: visit www.Facebook.com/VSPVisionCare, select the Book Drive Tab and make a “promise” to protect your eyes. For every promise received, Transitions Optical will donate one free book to Bess the Book Bus.
In fact, five of our author friends are donating signed copies of their books as prizes. John Perry author of The Book that Eats People, Margaret Mason author of These Hands, Deborah Diesen who wrote the lovely Pout-Pout Fish and the Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade, the talented Rebecca Emberley author of Chicken Little and many more, and the incredible Cynthia Lord who wrote Rules, Touch Blue, and Hotrod Hamster have all stepped up to support the book drive and Bess’ kids.
We would love to have you join us. We hope you will take the Eyecare Promise, spread the word, and see to it that even more of Bess’ kids get to experience the joy of reading and the gift of healthy sight.