bookathon.jpgI admit to withholding this piece of information from my recent blog about the Beyond School Walls Reverse Day at Fairhill School in Philadelphia: the library had no books.

Today it has more than 1,600 books, along with four high-end Macs and a laser printer, thanks to the can-do spirit of a group of Comcast Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

This is one of the coolest, most genuine stories I’ve had the opportunity to report in my 30+ years as a writer. Here’s how it happened.

June 4 was the culmination of year one for the John Alchin Beyond School Walls pilot program at Fairhill. Instead of the Littles coming to the Comcast Center, our Bigs visited them at Fairhill … thus, "Reverse Day."

Lunch was set up in the library which, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, had rows and rows of empty shelves. It was impossible not to notice, and our Bigs exchanged curious glances with each other and quietly asked among themselves, "this is the library, right?"

On the bus ride home about an hour later, the only topic of conversation was how to rectify the situation. An idea for a book drive was hatched, and it took about a nano-second for Comcast senior management to approve.

We partner with great organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters for many reasons, the key being a chance to make a real difference in young lives. Basic literacy unlocks opportunity, and is a building block to the unlimited horizons presented by digital literacy.

So in addition to the books collected by the Bigs, the Comcast Foundation donated four computers and a laser printer. Suddenly a neat but barren room was transformed into a multi-media center for the entire school to experience.

Kids told us they’d be able to do their homework in the library, easily perform research that used to take hours or days, and simply enjoy reading the wide range of books that now fill the shelves.

The books were unloaded from a Comcast truck parked in the middle of Somerset Street on a crisp, bright, sunny day. As local media snapped pictures and jockeyed for position with their video cameras, I noticed principal Luisa Garcia-Soler beaming as box after box loaded with books crossed the threshold of her school.

It was a really good day.