A Bright Light in a Dark World: Nicholas Donatelli ‘20 Creates Non-Profit Organization for Underprivileged Children

By Andrew Donnelly ‘20

It is said in Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you not only look to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  In June of 2018, Chaminade’s Nicholas Donatelli, ‘20 decided to take this verse to heart. Along with Catarina Chelius ‘21 from Our Lady of Mercy Academy, he created an organization that seeks to aid those less fortunate than himself.  Nick recognized that throughout the world, there remains a significant number of illiterate people who were never given the opportunity for an education. Soon after Nick had been educated about this situation, Books for Babies Inc. was born, and since its inception, the non-profit has been a huge success.  So far, they have been able to collect and donate over 1,000 children’s books.

Nicholas Donatelli ‘20 and Catarina Chelius from Our Lady of Mercy Academy pose for a photo at one of their donation boxes.

Books for Babies targets toddlers up to the age of four.  The first years of a child’s life are incredibly important to his or her development.  As noted on the Books for Babies website, 85 percent of brain structures are fully formed by age three, which is why it is crucial that the minds of young children are properly nourished through practices such as reading.  Nick’s mission is to help those who do not have ready access to books by giving them the tools necessary to raise intellectually curious children.

In an interview, Nick explained, “We came up with the idea for Books for Babies because we both love to read and saw that there was a need for an organization like this in our local community, as well as the country.  We wanted to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children by being able to provide them with books in the hopes that they too will grow up to be avid readers.”

The organization accepts children’s books of all different genres, from nursery rhymes to fairy tales.  Each book is packaged then taken to one of twelve different drop-off locations throughout Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn.  From there, the donations are distributed to a variety of different venues. Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, rescue missions, family service leagues, parish and synagogue outreach programs, and orphanages are just a few of the places receiving donations.  The books not only help increase literacy rates in toddlers, but they also encourage children’s curiosity, spark their imagination, and plant within each child an invigorating passion for reading.

Nick credits his Catholic education for his desire to make a difference in his community. “Having gone to Catholic school my whole life, I have learned about using our time, talents, and treasures to perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Books for Babies is my way of using everything I learned from my parents and Chaminade to give back to my community. One person can make an impactful difference, and I hope to make a difference —one book at a time,” Nick reflected.

Nick also called upon the Chaminade family to contribute to his organization. With the help of Mr. Thomas Dillon ‘92, Director of Student Activities, Nick organized a book drive at Chaminade High School.  He had faith that the members of the Chaminade community would be willing to join him in his endeavor, and he was nothing short of delighted by the extraordinary response.  The collection was wildly successful, as students, teachers, and alumni all came together to raise hundreds of books for the noble cause.

Chaminade High School seeks to raise young men who both recognize and tend to the needs of others.  At the core of Chaminade’s mission is teaching students to raise awareness of problems in our society and work to make a difference where needed.  Nick is fulfilling this mission in his community by providing a much-needed service for children who otherwise may not have opportunities for future success.  His goal is to bring the joys of reading to a world in desperate need of love and charity. Through his generous acts of charity, love, and genuine concern for others, Nick has proven to be the epitome of the Chaminade Man.