The books are the wish of little Lena Tietjen, whose life - and health - took a sharp turn a few weeks ago. In fact, she was out trick-or-treating around their neighborhood just like all the other kids.
"Totally 100% normal," mom Erin Tietjen said. "And a lot has changed since then."
Doctors thought the 4-year-old girl came down with a run-of-the-mill stomach virus, but her mother's instinct kicked in, so she pushed for testing and trips to the ER.
"If we had not taken her, she might not be here right now," Erin said.
Lena had emergency surgery to reduce swelling.
"They spread quickly, and even if you could remove it surgically, it's going to grow back," Erin said.
With radiation and chemotherapy set to begin in early December, doctors are hopeful she will survive one year.
There's nothing that we could have seen that would have prepared us for this," dad Matt Tietjen said. "There's no tells before all of this happened."
While her family waits for treatment, answers - and perhaps a miracle - they'll read from the beautiful pages being sent from near and far.
Donated books have been showing up by the dozens. In fact, so many have arrived, they built what they now call "Lena's Library."
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One delivery came courtesy of Santa, who arrived with packages for Lena and her twin brother, Clark.
Erin doesn't think Clark can grasp the severity of the situation, and the family doesn't want him to.
"While they may not be able to run on the soccer field or kick a ball the same way right now, or even play with Play-Doh, they can read books together," Erin said. "She has a lot of physical limitations that happened almost immediately. The books transport her to other places, even if she can't go."
Once they have enough books, the family said they are considering opening Lena's Library to share these books with all children.
Anyone who wishes to send Lena a new or gently used children's book can mail it to:
C/O Dr. Juanita Davis
Thomas W. Wallace Junior Middle School
688 North Mill Road
Vineland, NJ 08360
(Note: An Amazon wishlist has also been set up to streamline the process for anyone who might want guidance in selecting a book.
A relative has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of treatment, travel and other related expenses.
The family knows the road ahead will be difficult, but they also realize the importance of staying optimistic while hoping for a miracle.
"I had a moment in the hospital where I broke down and ducked into the bathroom," Matt said. "Erin came in and said, 'You can't do this. No story about beating the odds ever started out with good odds.' So we have to be strong for her, no matter how much it is tearing us up inside."
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