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From left, Betsy Ashcraft Walker, Lee Ashcraft, and Ruth Ashcraft Munday, display children’s books such as the one the family collects as part of the book drive they undertake in honor of their late wife and mother, Ann Brown Ashcraft.

A DeSoto County family will again provide the gift of reading for families dealing with children being treated at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. 

Lee Ashcraft, and daughters Ruth Ashcraft Munday and Betsy Ashcraft Walker have again undertaken a book collection project that celebrates the life of his late wife and their mother Ann Brown Ashcraft.

“This is our third year of our book project to celebrate her life,” said Munday. “She had a love for reading and her greatest joy was to inspire others, especially if they had learning disabilities, to enjoy a good book.”

The project was started shortly after Ann’s passing in 2017, Munday said.

“Our books are collected and given to children at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital,” she noted. “I have a friend who started the Forrest Spence Fund after she lost her baby at Le Bonheur.”

The Forrest Spence Fund was started to attend to the non-medical needs of critically and chronically ill children throughout the Mid-South, not just at Le Bonheur.

“We collect these books and ask anybody in the local area to give them,” Munday said. “We prefer them to be new books if possible because these are sick children that we are giving them to. Once we collect the books, we label them with stickers that indicate that they were given to honor the life of Ann Ashcraft. We then do a big donation drop off and give them to the Forrest Spence Fund.”

The book drive collected just under 2,100 books last year, she said. Drives this year will again include schools, and churches, along with individual efforts.

Munday said books really are an important item for youngsters and families dealing with medical issues.

“That is something that can create a sense of normalcy for a parent to be able to read to a child in a hospital setting, or have the parents with the child in the neonatal intensive care unit, be able to read,” Munday pointed out. “It’s just a happy diversion.”

October is selected as the focus month for the book drive because it was Ann Ashcraft’s birth month.

“Each book will have a dedication label placed on the inside cover page that will read: ‘Given in celebration of the life of Ann Brown Ashcraft,’” Munday said. “We use about 50 books a month, primarily in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It is such a sweet gift, as there are many wonderful selections that help promote parent-child bonding and exposure to reading from the earliest days of life.”

Munday said book donations may be mailed to her at: P.O. Box 444, Horn Lake, MS 38637. There are also drop off locations that include: Walker, Brown, and Brown, P.A., 2540 Highway 51 South, Hernando; Winn Brown Law Firm, 1613 Main Street, Southaven; and SouthGroup Insurance, 5740 Getwell Road in Southaven.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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