Saturday, March 19, 2022

#KidlitForUkraine: Stories of Hope—virtual author benefit

The day Russia invaded Ukraine (2/24/22), I was moved to try to throw together a virtual benefit for children of Ukraine. My simple vision: an evening of diverse, beloved authors sharing short stories of hope, open to anyone who makes a donation to Save the Children’s efforts for Ukraine. 

Entertainment + empathy.

While I have organized other small events (like the author variety show for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary held two months after the tragic shooting), I had no experience arranging online events, so I reached out to Rocco Staino, who connected me with Julie Gribble and KidLit TV. I was instantly in good hands.
On 3/2/22, the three of us met over Zoom. To their credit, they were willing to take on this effort despite the many moving parts and tight deadline. At first we discussed aiming to air in mid-April, but that felt too far off, so even though it would mean a more breakneck pace, we agreed that a sooner date was a) better and b) doable. Nervously, I floated the insanely imminent date of 3/22/22—and they did not hang up on me.

We decided to make the donations open-ended—any amount will help, and any amount will earn admission to the live stream program. People will also be able to donate during and after the event via a link we will provide during the program and afterward on social media. 

On 3/4/22, I hit the ground bolting, reaching out to Save the Children to set up the fundraiser and to a diverse group of authors to build the cast, which ended up including both the Newbery and Caldecott 2022 recipients. We also needed to fast-track a logo (courtesy of Mike Curato), a platform for registration (Eventbrite), marketing, and a ton of technical details from designing on screen graphics to translating videos in Ukrainian for English subtitles.

Luckily we have received heartening volunteer support, press coverage from School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and enthusiasm on social media. On the day we announced (3/15/22), we raised close to $2,000. 

Hosted by Rocco, the event features an all-star lineup of 21 award-winning storytellers, including three Ukrainian authors…plus surprises. 


Victoria Amelina | Вікторія Амеліна
Kathi Appelt
Adrianna Bamber | Адріянна Бамбер
Samantha Berger
Nick Bruel
Jason Chin
Carmen Agra Deedy
Nikki Grimes
Donna Barba Higuera
K.A. Holt
Olha Kupriyan | Ольга Купріян
Tara Lazar
Minh Lê
Jarrett Lerner
Kate Messner
Roxie Munro
Neal Shusterman
Charles R. Smith Jr.
Duncan Tonatiuh
Padma Venkatraman
Rita Williams-Garcia

The stories the authors will share are not necessarily taken from their books. I encouraged them to tell personal stories or stories they have encountered in their travels. The stories did not have to be explicitly about Ukraine but rather for Ukraine, though of course the Ukrainian authors do tie in that connection in a highly emotional way, as do some of the American authors.

Ukrainian Embassy, 3/15/22

Julie Gribble at KidLit TV has been a dream partner: collaborative, responsive, efficient, and connected, not to mention downright nice. She has endured a barrage of emails from me that would flatten even the stronger among us.

If this goes well, I hope to do more events like it—for Afghans, for Syrians, for whoever we can.

If you are reading this before 3/22/22, please spread the word…and please attend!

To that end, here is a tweet you can copy and paste:

#KidlitForUkraine: 3/22/22 7 pm EST

Virtual benefit for children of Ukraine: all-star lineup of American + Ukrainian children's authors sharing stories of hope. To watch, pls donate:; 100% of proceeds go directly to @SavetheChildren. Hosted @KidLitTV_NYC.

Ukrainian flag over embassy, as seen from canal trail 
behind building

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