It started with a bottle calf.
Aiden Fouhy, who was a second-grader at the time, was preparing to sell his first bottle calf. He lives on a ranch in Peerless with his parents. It was his mom who put the idea in his head.
"I said, 'You need to give some of the money to charity,'" Cindy Fouhy said.
He's done that faithfully for three years now and was at St. Vincent Healthcare on Friday handing over more than 200 new books to the hospital's pediatric ward. Nurses give out the books over the year to the kids who need a distraction, a smile or a little gift to pick them up.
Books because Aiden is a reader.
"I love to read," he said. "I like novels with lots of chapters."
When his mom challenged him to give a portion of the proceeds from the bottle calf sale to charity, Aiden thought it over and decided he wanted to do something with books.
He thought if he could give books to other kids, he could help them fall in love with reading just like he had. His parents suggested kids who were in the hospital and they decided that St. Vincent, a faith-based organization, best matched their values.
"It's a wonderful thing," said Amber Pisk, a registered nurse at St. Vincent, who has helped Aiden each year with the books.
The first year, the money bought about 70 books. As word spread, books started showing up on his doorstep as donations. Soon others were donating money to the cause.
This year, Aiden arrived at the hospital with 230 books, a website dedicated to his project and a working knowledge of companies that sell books to charities at a deep discount.
"Scholastic has a program," Aiden said, refering to the children's book publishing house.
The books he collects range from Sandra Boynton board books to Judy Bloom chapter books. He had a whole series of "Hank the Cowdog" books and "Magic Treehouse" tomes.
Walking up to the pediatric floor with his cart of books, nearly every adult he ran into asked him if he's read all the books. Each time, Aiden would chuckle and tell them he hadn't. He'd then point out which books were his favorite.
Each book comes with a sticker that reads, "We hope this book helps you feel better and blesses your day! From: Kids Book Charity." In the background is an image of a cat wearing glasses and holding a pencil and a book.
This year, with all the books that Aiden was able to gather, he needed help placing the stickers. So he enlisted the help of his fifth-grade class.
"His teacher was great," Fouhy said.
It's been a positive experience for the family and it's surprised Aiden how popular it's become. He's eager to keep it growing.
"His goal is to get it to the point where he'll need a van to haul all the books," Fouhy said.