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The joy of VCBF

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to get a hug from illustrator Timothy Basil Ering, you won’t forget it.

The 2019 marks Tim’s sixth appearance at the Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF), and this year he was late. Well, he’s always late, but this year he snuck up behind me at author registration (how he did that, I’ll never know because his laugh is quite frankly BOOMING, and he’s always laughing), and the next thing I knew I was being lifted 3 feet off the ground. Shirley Blackwell was there taking pictures, and though I hate having my picture taken, I couldn’t be happier to have a visual record of Tim’s hugs. I don’t get them often enough. I want to remember them.

You see, Tim is the personification of the VCBF: hard work, dedication, friendship, sleepless nights and joy. It’s what the entire VCBF team does all year, and for three days each October we are all together seeing the results of that hard work; we are laughing and crying together, solving problems together, making the dream a reality together. We don’t get to do that often enough.

Shannon Nusbaum was alone when she registered more than 8,000 children for their VCBF sessions. Meagan Martz was alone when she packed AV emergency boxes. Brent Roberts was alone when he drove to Richmond six times in two days. Judith Campbell was alone when she sent our posters to printing services. Charlotte Farley was alone when she completed our first 2020 grant application. Alex Grabiec was alone when he figured out how to get Victoria Kann’s artwork to the LCVA (Longwood Center for Visual Arts). Libby Blanton was alone when she convinced Gene Southall to show off his classic cars. Nikki Kain was alone when she created each individual volunteer schedule. Chris Cheatham was alone when he planned how to feed all our authors. Caitlin Frank was alone when she laid out the schedule for our special needs sessions at SHLS (Speech, Hearing & Learning Services.) Chief Beach was alone when he planned extra security. Julie Aldrich was alone when she made calls to donors asking for help. Matthew McWilliams was alone when he designed the VCBF program. Teresa Dodson was alone when she planned authors’ travel. Nash Osborn was alone when he created respites for the VCBF team. Mindy Osborn was alone when she purchased umbrellas for our authors. Brian Vincent was alone when he figured out how to film “Authors in Cars Getting Coffee.” Latrice Pearl was alone when she inventoried sharpies, blank books, first aid kits and volunteer t-shirts.

Work for the 2020 VCBF has been happening for about eight months already, and I am glad of it. You see, those three days in October are a celebration for all of us who have been working so hard — and the sooner we get back to work, the happier I am. It means we are one day closer to watching kids’ faces light up and special memories being made; one day closer to getting a hug from Tim Ering, one day closer to all being together again in utter joy. There is no way I can adequately thank these folks who toil alone for something as intangible as a child’s joy. There is no way I can adequately thank all the people who make it possible; the donors, the volunteers, everyone at Longwood University, the corporate sponsors, the grant makers, our community partners. There is no way to thank them except to ask them to share our joy for those three incredible and fleeting days in October. Oh, and to make sure they get a hug from Tim Ering.

JUANITA M. GILES is the executive director of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival. She can be reached via email juanita@vachildrensbookfestival.org.