‘Check Out’ Debbie Cameron’s Generosity: Libby’s Library
“One afternoon out for a stroll with Libby, she was struck by an idea: wouldn’t it be nice if there were a library where people with autism could see stories like theirs. “
Debbie Cameron didn’t start out planning to build a library for children with autism and their parents, she started out looking for a place where she and her standard poodle, Libby, could enjoy an afternoon walk.
Set back from the road behind a ravine and camouflaged by wall of trees, the Worthington Campus of I Am Boundless, Inc., was hardly her first choice. Something about the site of the former Harding Hospital had always seemed foreboding to Debbie.
“I never wanted to go back in there,” she recalls. “But when we moved into the neighborhood, the traffic just wasn’t conducive to dogs. Finally, I decided to just drive back there thinking it was deserted…And the campus was just beautiful!”
Debbie and Libby quickly fell into a familiar routine of walks around the meadows and wooded acres. Over the next few weeks, she met some of the staff and had the chance to learn about Boundless and its center-based behavioral health programs for children and young adults with autism. Eventually, Debbie decided she wanted to do something to thank the Boundless team for allowing her and Libby a safe place for their daily excursions, and so she reached out to Christine Austin Fannin, director of clinical operations for Boundless Behavioral Health.
Debbie let Christine know that Libby was a therapy dog and asked, was there something they could do for the kids on campus. Christine was quick to take Debbie and Libby up on their generous offer and soon the pair were visiting participants weekly in three separate programs.
“I knew nothing about autism,” she says. “Libby and I would come in and I would watch as these kids slowly grew from terrified of Libby to curious. Now, a lot of the older kids are really good friends with her. They get so excited.”
Over time, Debbie learned more about the center-based programs and came to appreciate the unique challenges that come with working with individuals with autism. One afternoon out for a stroll with Libby, she was struck by an idea: wouldn’t it be nice if there were a library where people with autism could see stories like theirs.
With that the seeds for Libby’s Library were planted.
Debbie spent hours researching appropriate materials to include in her library, carefully reviewing recommendations and scouring the internet for suggestions. When she had finished pulling everything together, she spent three days designing the space to be something truly special. Debbie thought of everything: children’s books are on shelves closer to the floor, for easy reach by little hands. Materials for parents are on higher shelves, and everything is available to borrow on the honor system.
Today, anyone in the community is welcome to stop by Building B and take advantage of this incredible resource — a treasure trove of material ranging from picture books and novels, to magazines and games.
“We’re so fortunate to have a volunteer like Debbie who is so dedicated to the children in our center-based programs,” says Jodi Bopp, vice president of advancement. “Thanks to Debbie – and Libby – Boundless Behavioral Health has a tremendous resource for children and their families, and we can’t thank her enough.”
Asked what she hopes people will gain from the Libby’s Library, Debbie is modest. “I just hope it helps,” she says.
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