PORT ANGELES — Second-grade students at Queen of Angels Catholic School are honoring their late substitute teacher Cynthia Little, who was murdered last year, in a big way.
Keira Headrick, 8, cut the ribbon Wednesday for the dedication of Mrs. Little’s Little Library at Clallam County Juvenile and Family Services, where Little also served as a court-appointed special advocate for children involved in the court system through no fault of their own.
“Cynthia would be very honored,” said Valerie Brooks, CASA program coordinator. “She loved books, she loved kids and she would be very honored these kids are making the effort to remember her.”
Keira said she and her classmates enjoyed writing personal messages in some of the donated books that children will see when they stop to read at Juvenile and Family Services.
She hopes she and her classmates can continue to collect 100 books each year to support the library.
“We’re going to ask our classmates and their parents” for help, Keira said.
Little was 71 when she was killed May 4, 2017, at her Sequim-area home. Benjamin Bonner, 19, is charged with her murder and awaits trial. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He remains in the Clallam County jail on $1.5 million bail.
Brooks said Little’s death was devastating to the students she taught. She frequently substituted at Queen of Angels and she would always read to the students.
Little also felt that every child should know how to swim and often would take youngsters to swimming lessons, Brooks said.
Last year the class bought swimsuits, beach towels and pool passes to be given to area foster children, but they wanted to do more this year to honor the teacher they loved, Brooks said.
She said the library was the students’ idea, which makes the gesture even more special.
“That’s what makes it really sweet to me,” she said. “The kids came up with it, they did the work to collect it, they took the time out of their classroom time to write a note in every book they donated.”
The students raised funds and put together the library as a class project that was auctioned off at this year’s BASH Auction benefiting children’s education at the school.
Joe D’Amico, who owns Security Services Northwest, won the auction to sponsor the library. D’Amico, reached by phone Wednesday, said he had no idea about the story behind why the students put the library together.
“We just wanted to give back to the community,” D’Amico said. “I was just told it was to fund a library at [Clallam County Juvenile and Family Services].”
The small library is filled with children’s books that kids can take home to read. Brooks said it’s common for young people who end up going through Juvenile and Family Services not to have books at home.
She said there have been books available in the courtroom for several years now, but Mrs. Little’s Little Library will expand access.
“A lot of these kiddos don’t have books at home,” she said. “They don’t have someone that would necessarily know to read with them or have the benefit of nursery rhyme-type stories.”
As a CASA volunteer, Little made it a priority to make sure the children she was helping had books to read. She often read to them and if there was a special event, such as a birthday or holiday, she would give them books, Brooks said.
She was surprised at the number of kids who didn’t have access to books, Brooks said.
“To her that was just a travesty, that they weren’t able to experience and live through the stories and other people’s experiences,” Brooks said.
Brooks sad Little would volunteer her time to help in the CASA program’s office a couple days each week, allowing staff to catch up on whatever needed to be done.
“She loved everybody unconditionally with all of her heart no matter what and she was kind to everybody — even society’s broken and forgotten people,” Brooks said. “That’s something that not everyone can say.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.