Over the past decade, Reach Out and Read Colorado and I have grown up together. And, this nimble organization and I have been lucky to share our experience with the support and guidance from some incredible health care providers across Colorado. When I joined the Reach Out and Read Colorado in 2009, it was a staff of two. I never anticipated that my new role as program coordinator, at the time I legitimately didn’t know what the term “technical assistance” meant, would lead me to this moment. A decade later and much wiser about QI-MOCs, CMEs, and EMRs, it is bittersweet to say goodbye.
I have zigzagged across Colorado, visiting sites and presenting lunch and learns. Our diverse network granted me an invaluable gift – the opportunity to fall more in love with, its nuances, challenges, beauty, and people. I have talked with parents in ranching communities and framing towns and urban neighborhoods. After a site visit in Hugo, Colorado the staff locked the doors as the entire town was headed to a homecoming parade demonstrating the deep vein of community pride and support for one another. These values of care and compassion, are echoed throughout Colorado.
I believe there is a sense of accountability and responsibility in the communities and health clinics that we partner with from the mountains to the plains. When families lack access to books, or funds to purchase resources, or time, transportation the local providers and their staff are a beacon. I know an impassioned site coordinator in Metro Denver, who spent her weekends on Pinterest for inspiration then hand painted wall decorations for her clinic waiting room and exam rooms.
During my tenure I witnessed countless Reach Out and Read Colorado champions go above and beyond because they care deeply about their patients and the investment in the future of our youth. A health care provider wrote a special message in the inside cover of every book she prescribed to enhance and extend the socio-emotional bond strengthened through reading aloud. Dozens of rural site coordinators drove hours to our Denver office to pick up boxes of gently used books to ensure their patients had access to resources. Medical staff remained after hours packaging and mailing the few books that are accidentally and occasionally left behind each week when a parent is managing a sippy cups, sweaters, and little hands.
My experiences humble me, and I want to say – thank you. The anecdotes in this letter are a direct reflection of your spirit, compassion, and commitment to community health. Every stethoscope, every roll of exam paper, every cabinet full of books, and every smile matters. Our program is about families and health care providers navigating the best future for each child together. And by leveraging the book as a tool to enhance the relationship between the provider and parent, we forge a support unit. Our collective work and my focus for the past decade centered on collaboration and meaningful connections.
Although this chapter has come to close, I look forward to partnering with you and crossing paths in the next.