When the librarians at the city of Santa Clarita and the Old Town Newhall Library heard Newhall resident Damian Markham’s story and learned that one of his favorite activities is reading with his parents, they jumped at the opportunity to help.
Damian, 2, and his family have felt support from a community, social media and celebrity-spanning fundraising effort after he was diagnosed earlier this year with a rare form of Niemann Pick Disease, a deadly sickness that’s been likened to “Baby Alzheimer’s.”
His parents, Brittany and Brock Markham, say the disease has resulted in him falling far behind in his development in comparison to other kids his age — such as conversing, walking, climbing, etc. But that hasn’t stopped their son from constantly reading his three favorite books with them: “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed” by Eileen Christelow; “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle; and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle.
“His favorite thing to do is if you give him a book and we just read him books, he’ll sit and read with us as long as we’ll read to him,” said Brock.
A neighbor of the Markhams heard about the child’s passion for books, and thought it would be a good idea to reach out and see if the Santa Clarita Public Library would be interested in throwing a special Sidewalk Stories for Damian one morning — an idea city staff instantly embraced.
“They wanted to have a special story time with all of his favorite books and songs and things … and so we just picked one of our regular old story times and made it happen,” said Liza Purdy, senior librarian for children’s services with the city.
Since the spring, the Sidewalk Stories program has hosted an event at the Old Town Newhall library, with staff volunteering 30 minutes of their time to read stories, and sometimes sing songs, to the kids and their parents gathered outside the library.
This past Wednesday, the library staff read stories like they normally would. However, in a rare move for the program, they decided to name the day’s programs after Damian and read his three favorite books to all those gathered.
“We were thrilled to participate with Damian,” said Purdy. “Anytime it’s someone’s favorite thing to come to story time, we’re all about it.”
“This was like Disneyland-quality shows, but just for little kids,” said Brittany Markham, when describing the event hosted by two members of city staff. “It was just amazing. There was such a good energy there and we were really glad we went.”
In addition to making the half-hour program centered on Damian’s favorites, the librarians also asked Brittany and Brock for a message they would like to say to Damian, then inscribed the message on bookplates, and placed them at the beginning of Damian’s three favorite books, which they then gave to him.
“They’re really special, the staff at the library,” Brittany Markham said.
For more information about Damian Markham’s story, upcoming SCV events in Damian’s honor, or how to donate to the fight against Neimann Pick Disease, visit the fundraiser campaign’s social media pages at https://www.facebook.com/PleaseSaveDamian or https://www.instagram.com/pleasesavedamian/.