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While many kids think of summer vacation as playtime, then-fifth-grade friends Chase Hartman and Vance Tomasi came up with an idea that is still serving their community—spreading their love of reading.
After learning that some children in their community lacked adequate access to books, they wanted to do something about it. Their solution? read.repeat.
“We just wanted to help people in our community get books,” said Vance Tomasi, now in 8th grade at Farnell Middle. “We really had no idea it was going to take off the way it has!”
In only three years, Chase and Vance have collected and distributed 110,000 books to 200 locations in all 50 states. In addition, read.repeat. has earned $57,000 in grants and awards. The boys spent the money to purchase 60,000 books and distributed them to 65 schools across our district!
Chase and Vance recruited classmates, fellow Boy Scouts and their 4 little brothers to help with the task of collecting and sorting thousands of books into age-appropriate categories.
They have built a website, set up distribution locations and make deliveries with the help of their moms.
“It feels really good to make an impact on our community,” explained Chase Hartman, also an 8th grader at Farnell Middle. “Vance is my best friend and we really have a lot of fun working together.”
Two impactful deliveries included Sheehy Elementary, which suffered from a flood and lost classroom libraries, and Lee (Tampa Heights) Elementary, which burned down days after Hurricane Irma blew through Tampa. On both accounts, the boys distributed thousands of books to fill classroom libraries—allowing children to have the resources necessary to learn when the schools re-opened.
“They were devastated and didn’t have any books left,” said Vance. “Being able to help them were some of the most memorable moments for us.”
Chase and Vance are on a mission to donate books to all 90 Title 1 Schools in our county.
“Most people think of adults and local businesses when it comes to our community partners,” said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. “Chase and Vance are proving that you’re never too young to make an impact on the community.”
Recently, read.repeat. was awarded a microgrant from KarmaforCara.org to purchase books-with-diversity. Chase and Vance used the money to deliver 3,000 books so students at Cleveland Elementary could complete their summer reading.
read.repeat. has also donated thousands books directly to the James Haley Veteran’s Hospital.
“Their initial goal was to donate 25,000 books. They eventually aimed for 100,000 books after they reached other goals,” explained Kim Parrish, Chase’s mom. “I have been impressed that they have taken a goal, achieved it, and then set bigger goals for three straight years.”
Each of the boys have won the Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow Award – receiving $25,000 college scholarships and each donating $25,000 towards Hillsborough County Public Schools. Chase’s project “Lightning Libros” will provide dual-language books to Spanish-speaking Kindergarten through 2nd grade students while Vance’s donation provided books to students in Summer Reading Camps.
“I know for a fact that this project is not about winning awards for them, it’s about touching as many lives throughout the community as possible—that makes me really happy as a parent,” said Kim.
As part of Vance’s national Prudential Spirit of Community Award, he was given $5,000 to donate to charity. His funds went to the Hillsborough County Literacy Association and were used to purchase books with diversity. They distributed nearly 2,000 books to students Oak Grove Elementary as part of the Halloween Spook-tacular Literacy Event.
Nationally, Chase and Vance won the prestigious President’s Environmental Youth Award representing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4 (Southeast). Chase also won the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award for the Middle School Division in Florida in 2017 and Vance went on to represent Florida in 2019 where he won the National Gold Medal.
Both students have received Gold Level recognition for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, the Hillsborough County Youth Excellence and Achievement Award (YEA), the Hillsborough County Literacy Association’s Celebrate Literacy Award and the Barbara B. Hancock Literacy Award.
They were named national finalists for the Charlotte Bacon Acts of Kindness Award given by the Newtown Kindness Organization and received a $1000 grant which they donated to the Greater Tampa Bay Area Boy Scout office for use on an environmental project at Camp Brorein.
More information is available at www.readrepeat.org.