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Nearly 600 book lovers united at Bernie’s Book Bank on Friday, May 3 for the 8th annual Book Lovers’ Lunch and 2nd annual Book Lover’s Breakfast. The signature event benefited the mission of Bernie’s Book Bank to increase book ownership among at-risk children throughout Chicagoland.

NASA Astronaut and author Clayton “Astro Clay” Anderson headlined both breakfast and lunch. Anderson spent 167 days in space and executed 6 spacewalks consisting of 38 hours and 28 minutes. He applied to be an astronaut with NASA 15 times, prior to being selected in 1998, and has spent over 30 years working for NASA as an engineer and an astronaut. He is the author of three books including the award-winning book, The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut.

Anderson gave an entertaining and impactful speech about how he discovered his dream to be an astronaut. Anderson highlighted the integral role books played in his life from a young Nebraska boy reading comic books in a tree to reading while calling the International Space Station home and beyond.

“I have always been a dreamer…and the easiest way for me to dream is while turning the pages of a book,” he shared.

In addition, the event highlighted educators with firsthand knowledge of the positive impact Bernie’s Book Bank has on local children served with 12 books annually. Dr. Donn Mendoza of Roundlake Area Public Schools spoke during breakfast and Sonia Jones of LEARN Charter School Networks addressed lunch guests. 

“Without question, the biggest equalizer for any student is the ability to read,” Dr. Mendoza stressed.

When Founder and Chief Advancement Officer Brian Floriani took the stage, he shared appreciation for where Bernie’s Book Bank has come in the past 10 years as well as his hopes for the future. He seamlessly tied his remarks into the theme of space exploration in honor of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing.

“Providing books for all at-risk children in America might feel like putting a man on the moon. But if the past is a predictor of the future, I like our odds,” Floriani noted.

He also announced the launch of a new Bernie’s Book Bank monthly giving program titled “Page Turners.” Anyone can become a Page Turner by making a monthly investment to help at-risk children to turn the page to a brighter future.

Darrin Utynek, Bernie’s Book Bank CEO, concluded the event with sentiments of gratitude, sharing a special thanks to presenting sponsor Macy’s and all of the generous event sponsors.

Look for the return of Book Lovers’ Breakfast and Book Lovers’ Lunch in May of 2020!