Bernie’s Book Bank charity golf outing Sept. 8 at Onwentsia in Lake Forest

The Bernie’s Book Bank charity golf event, Birdies & Books, is moving to Lake Forest’s Onwentsia Club, signaling the organization’s and the event’s growth since it was founded in 2009.

“We’ve gone from zero to serving more than 80,000 kids in the Chicagoland area and delivering them more than one million books in 2013,” said Barrett Davie, vice chairman of the Bernie’s Book Bank board and co-chairman of the golf outing.

That growth has spurred changes beyond what founder Brian Floriani ever imagined.

“We’re in an exciting time right now with regards to growth and plans we’re working on for expansion next year in a big way,” Floriani said. “Moving the golf outing to Onwentsia is one indicator of our progress and that growth.”

This year’s Birdies & Books event will be held on Monday, Sept. 8, at the club at 300 Green Bay Road in Lake Forest. The annual golf outing is the longest-running fundraising event for the charitable organization begun in December 2009. Since its inception, Bernie’s Book Bank has donated more than 2.7 million books to at-risk children in the Chicago area.

“The response to this year’s event has been overwhelming,” Floriani said. “If you’re interested in playing, make your move quickly.”

Registration and the practice range open at 11 a.m. followed by a buffet lunch at noon. The shotgun start begins at 1 p.m. with cocktails, light appetizers and an awards ceremony at 6 p.m.

“This is an exciting time for the organization and the golf tournament,” Floriani said.

Reading is the single most important skill a child needs to learn, yet studies show 61 percent of low-income families don’t have any books at all in their homes for their children, according to Davie.

That’s why, in 2008, Floriani left his job as a golf pro to become a reading paraprofessional for Shiloh Park Elementary School in Zion. There Floriani realized getting books into kids’ hands before they got to school would make a bigger impact on their future.

In 2009, Floriani founded Bernie’s Book Bank in his garage, where he began collecting and redistributing bags of children’s books to at-risk kids. He named the organization for his father, who devoted his entire professional life to promoting literacy.

Today Bernie’s operates out of a warehouse facility at 28101 Ballard Drive in Lake Forest. It is there that quality new and used books are collected, processed and distributed to increase book ownership among at-risk infants, toddlers and school-age children.

“To complete our mission in the Chicagoland area, we’ll need to serve 350,000 kids with about 4 million books annually,” Davie said. “We’ll get there in the next three years and simultaneously expand our operations to focus on solving the literary problem nationally.”

The organization’s ultimate goal is to supply 10 million at-risk American children with books, he said.

“Starting here in Lake Forest, and covering the nation at the point of attack, through early childhood literacy, I believe we can help shift the trajectory of our nation,” Davie said.

For information on Birdies & Books or Bernie’s Book Bank, go to www.berniesbookbank.org or call 847-780-READ (7323).

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