It was Christmas in October at Crump Elementary School on Tuesday.
The Hickory Hill school's nearly 1,000 students were the happy recipients of brand-new children's books, courtesy of the I AM Foundation.
Photo by Mike Maple
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The foundation, started in 1998, has given away more than 700,000 books to students in low-income areas in the United States and 29 other nations, said founder Steve Viglione.
He and his wife, Marilyn Powers, teamed up Tuesday to give students a message of self-affirmation.
"There is a dream inside of you," Viglione said. "Let us be your inspiration to remember your dreams and know that they can come true someday."
Powers told students to know they are loved and worthy of it.
"I am greatness and I know that others are greatness, too," she had students recite.
The excited students opened their books and began reading to each other well before making it out the gym's door.
Among the books distributed was Vigilone's "The I AM! Affirmation Book: Discovering the Value of Who You Are." It has been printed in five languages.
Jeff Goonewardena, consulate general of Sri Lanka, joined the group on the tour and has sponsored some of the giving.
Goonewardena said his contributions are a way of giving back after the I AM Foundation gave 100,000 books to Sri Lankan children after the 2005 tsunami.
The stop in Hickory Hill is among nearly a dozen planned this week at schools, libraries and community centers as part of the Gulf states tour that the I AM Foundation is completing.
Stops include New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Powers said they were returning to remind those students that they hadn't been forgotten.
Alonzo Brown, Crump's principal, was just as excited as his students.
Brown said he hoped Tuesday's assembly and book-giveaway would have a lasting impression on his students.
"It's important because children need to know there are other people outside the school other than principals and teachers who love them and care about them," he said.
-- Dakarai I. Aarons: 529-6515