Reading “Beauty and the Beast” to children in the inpatient waiting room at Akron Children’s Beeghly campus brought back fond memories for David Handel of his daughter, Shelly.
Much like the underlying theme in the story, Handel knew he would eventually have to let her go.
Shelly fought a courageous battle against brain cancer virtually her entire life, a battle she succumbed to in 2005 at the age of 20. Along the way, Handel spent countless days and nights accompanying Shelly during her treatment at hospitals locally and in Cleveland.
Many of those hospital stays involved doing what he was doing on this very day, spending time sharing their respective love of books.
In “Beauty and the Beast” there’s a line where The Beast hands Belle his “magic mirror” and tells her: “Take it with you, so you’ll always have a way to look back, and remember.”
Fittingly to the story, that’s essentially what Handel and Denise DeBartolo York, a long-time friend and business partner, did in memory of his daughter.
Thanks to a donation of more than $30,000 from his foundation and DeBartolo York, Handel established “Shelly’s Book Nook Fund” to create 4 “Shelly’s Book Nook” reading areas throughout Akron Children’s Beeghly campus.
Each location contains an attractive display of new children’s books, and seating and space for reading them. Patients and their visiting siblings are encouraged to select a book that becomes theirs to keep. The donation also provides funding for new books to be added when supplies are depleted.
“Books just help kids get through these difficult situations,” Handel said.
He also remarked about how nice it was to see this type of facility locally, which included many comforts necessary for both patients and their family members who spend so much time there with their children.
Hospital volunteers re-stock the “Shelly’s Book Nook” shelves upwards of 6 times per day because of its popularity. Corporate and individual donations of new children’s books are encouraged and used to help replenish the supply.
“It’s nice to be able to work with donors in ways that not only meet patient needs, but help meet their unique philanthropic aspirations, as well,” said JoAnn Stock, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley development director.
DeBartolo York holds a special place in her heart for the Handel family, and wanted to be part of establishing this tribute to Shelly.
“David and I are dear friends, and I still remember the phone call when Shelly was first diagnosed,” DeBartolo York said. “She was such a sweet, loving and courageous young girl, and we made this donation in her honor to keep her memory alive. It’s a very gratifying day for all of us.”
At the end of “Beauty and the Beast,” we learn that “true love had finally broken the spell, and everyone danced for joy.” Similar are the sentiments that Handel and DeBartolo York share for the hospital patients who are impacted through this donation in Shelly’s memory.