Chris Rosenblum | State College girl passes on gift of knowledge

January 11, 2014 

When it comes to small print, this offer takes the prize.

On Thursday night, Penn State women’s basketball fans can get into the game against Ohio State for $5 if they bring a book.

Anisha Prabhu will be there, but she won’t need a cent for one of the best seats.

She already gave at the library.

As part of their annual book drive fundraiser, the Lady Lions invited Anisha, a fifth-grader from State College, to serve as an honorary coach in recognition of her literary generosity.

For the second straight year, Anisha donated her birthday money to Schlow Centre Region Library for new children’s books. She presented $110 the first time and then outdid herself this fall. After turning 10 on Oct. 2, she handed over $270.

On the library’s front steps, on the verge of the donation, Samata Prabhu asked her daughter if she was sure.

“One of the things we’re trying to teach her is when you give something, it has to come from the heart,” Prabhu said.

It was Anisha’s money, her good fortune; she could do anything with it. She could, say, get her nails done several times. She could splurge at the mall.

“But I said, ‘No, I’m fine. I don’t need anything,’ ” Anisha said.

She listened to her heart, and it told her to share her love.

“I really like to read,” she said.

Her inspiration last year came from a friend’s brother, another young donor who made a similar gift to Schlow. Allowed to select her titles, she picked some from the American Girl series, among other additions to the library’s shelves.

“It was cool getting to see all the books people could read and learn from, so I decided to do it again,” Anisha said.

This year, her gift provided for 44 books of her choosing. Her eclectic batch included contemporary Nancy Drew mysteries, selections from the Kitty Corner series about animals and human body reference tomes.

Schlow’s staff was so impressed with Anisha’s largesse it nominated her to be the honorary coach at Thursday’s game.

“It’s very lovely,” said Wendy Klemick, the library’s public relations and marketing manager. “We feel very grateful.”

Stephanie Zonars, an athletic programs coordinator with the Lady Lions, said the team reserves its honorary coach choices for local people who “have just done something special.”

Anisha is in good company. Past coaches have included a Penn State student who ran the Tussey Mountainback 50-mile ultramarathon and a Ferguson Township police officer who won an international award.

Sunday’s game honors Adam Hartswick, a local soldier learning to walk again after losing his legs in Afghanistan.

Zonars said Anisha tied in perfectly with Thursday’s book drive promotion.

“Somebody who’s 10 years old to have that kind of heart for reading and learning, that’s something that’s really close to (Lady Lions coach) Coquese (Washington’s) heart,” Zonars said.

“She loves books, and her kids read a lot. She read a lot as a young person, and I think that had a big impact on her personality. ... To honor somebody who also values that at such a young age is a really cool thing.”

On Thursday, Penn State will treat Anisha and her mother to the deluxe VIP package. They’ll watch the Lady Lions run through their pregame practices and warm-ups, catch the action from the bench and then observe the press conference afterward.

As honorary coach, Anisha holds a special privilege. If she wishes, she can contribute to Washington’s pep talk before the game.

She’ll probably chime in.

Having met some of the players when they came to Corl Street Elementary School, she wants to inspire them to win.

“I’m really excited and thankful that I got the opportunity to do this,” she said.

She deserves every minute — even if she didn’t initially think so.

“I have to say her first reaction was: ‘What did I do? I just gave my birthday money,’ ” Samata Prabhu said.

Children’s librarian Anita Ditz thinks it’s a big deal.

Ditz said Anisha’s gift, like others made to Schlow in the same fashion before her, validate efforts to connect with young readers, to instill a sense that “they own the library, that this is their place.”

“The fact that they’re willing to forgo personal presents, to donate to the library, is indicative of that,” Ditz said.

But the real beneficiary in this story is Anisha herself.

She made her mother and father, Sandeep Prabhu, proud.

She gained the respect and appreciation of her beloved library.

And she earned the satisfaction of knowing that her gift will spark more imaginations like hers for years to come.

“I think it means everyone can, if they don’t have access to books at home, they can come to the library and read all they want,” she said.

“And that’s so cool that with the money you donate, kids can read and just gain knowledge from coming to the library.”

Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620. Follow him on Twitter@CRosenblumNews.

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