This past June, Fort Wayne non-profit Kate’s Kart turned seven years old. Founded in 2008 by Krista and Andrew (BS, ’92, MEd, ’99) Layman, Kate’s Kart collects and distributes books at children’s hospitals to “provide a comforting diversion to hospitalized children and their families, and to foster a love of books, and ultimately literacy, by encouraging children to read and parents to read to their children.” Katherine Anne Layman, the namesake of Kate’s Kart, was born to Krista and Andrew in the summer of 2006. Days after Kate was born, doctors responded to her low oxygen levels and discovered that a genetic disorder called DiGeorge, VCFS, or 22q (a deletion in her 22nd chromosome) had caused structural and functional problems in her heart. Kate’s diagnosis led to several open-heart surgeries and months spent in hospitals in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and even Ann Arbor, Michigan. In January 2008, when doctors could do no more for Kate, she passed peacefully in her mother’s arms. Because Kate had loved to be read to, the Laymans soon organized a book drive called “Fill a U-Haul,” and launched the first Kate’s Kart at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne. Volunteers would push the Kart door-to-door so that children and parents could select books to read and keep, making their stays in the hospital a little more bearable.
The Fill a U-Haul event in 2008 drew 5,500 books, $3,000 in donations, and 27 volunteers, 9 of whom quickly became the Board of Directors in response to the flood of donations. A year and six Karts later, Kate’s Kart was granted non-profit status by the state of Indiana. Today, while Andrew teaches seventh grade social studies at Whitko Community Schools, Krista is the director of Kate’s Kart, Inc., which operates 18 Karts in 16 hospitals solely from donations and grants. Through the years, communities have rallied to stock more Karts in more hospitals: the students, staff, and PTO of Ryan Park Elementary in Fort Wayne funded Kart #12 at St. Joseph Hospital, and Kart #13 at DeKalb Memorial Hospital in Auburn was donated by the cheer squad at Lakewood Park Christian School. In addition to Karts donated by school communities, bereaved parents seeking memorials for their children have chosen to fund Karts in their children’s names. Zach and Meghann Powers funded Kart #16 at Bluffton Memorial Hospital in honor of their son Xander, who passed away in July 2011. Zach and Meghann had received books from the Kart at Lutheran Hospital, and wanted to provide the joy of books to other parents and children in similar circumstances. Since June 2008, Kate’s Kart has given over 102,000 books to children in hospitals in northeastern Indiana. An up-to-date count is available on their website.
Kate’s Kart accepts monetary donations as well as donations of books. Donated books must be brand new—never read—to cut down on the risk of contamination for children with compromised immune systems and to ensure that children feel that these books are uniquely theirs. Kate’s Kart requests books that will be popular among children and young adults: specifically, soft cloth books that babies can play with, classics like Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, books that have recently been made into movies like The Hunger Games series, and books by well-known authors such as Dr. Seuss (The Lorax, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) and John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns). Those who wish to volunteer with Kate’s Kart can fill out an application online; volunteers can push the Kart door-to-door at certain hospitals (must adhere to hospital protocol, including background check, TB test, etc.), or label, sort, and accept donations at the Kate’s Kart office and storage. Donations may be made at 10376 Leo Road, Suite A in Fort Wayne, or at Canterbury Middle School, 5601 Covington Road in Fort Wayne. The Alumni Office encourages those in the Fort Wayne area to get involved with this non-profit that has provided countless children and parents with the joy of reading and literacy.
This article is written by Hannah Combs who is a student writer for the Alumni Office. She is a senior student of Writing and Humanities through the John Wesley Honors College.