Emily Bhatnagar has always loved reading. “Growing up, I was really shy, so I always turned to books,” she told TIME for Kids. In 2019, Bhatnagar was in high school when her dad was diagnosed with cancer. Books became an even bigger comfort. She started thinking about families in similar situations.
When Bhatnagar’s dad recovered, she came up with a plan to help others. “The idea came from just overwhelming gratitude that the doctors were able to perform such a miracle,” she says. “But also a hint of sadness that there were kids who were fighting the same battle.”
Bhatnagar started a book drive in her hometown. She’s from Gaithersburg, Maryland. The goal was to collect books for kids being treated for cancer in local hospitals. Her father was not surprised. “She was always interested in books,” he says, “and she always wanted to do things for the neighborhood.” She calls the book drive For Love & Buttercup. She’s collected more than 10,000 books.
Making a Difference
Bhatnagar started by posting on social media. She asked people in her area to donate books. “I was expecting maybe two or three responses from neighbors,” she says. “But it ended up blowing up.” News stations began reporting it.
The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health is one of the places where Bhatnagar has donated books. Aisha Campbell is a director there. “Donations like [Bhatnagar’s] share a piece of the world with [kids and families] that they may not have gotten to experience,” she says.
Turning the Page
Bhatnagar continues to run the book drive. She gets a little help from her parents. “We do the driving,” her dad says. She hopes to one day expand the project to reach more kids. The memory of the first time she visited children who’d received her books sticks with her. “It was the best day of my life,” she says. “I realized I wanted to do this type of work forever.”