Twelve years ago, Brian Floriani lost his father and his grandmother on the same day. While preparing eulogies for both, he pondered the legacy he would leave. He thought about what others might say if he were the one being eulogized. In the midst of a successful career as a lead golf instructor for Golf Digest in Lake Tahoe and West Palm Beach, the answers to those questions troubled him.
“Although I was successful, I felt far from significant,” Brian said.
Brian began to reprioritize his life. Trading golf courses and private jet trips for early mornings in classrooms, Brian started to tutor children who were struggling to read. “It was an eye-opener. Many of these kids didn’t have access to books, and if they went to the library, they often couldn’t even take books home with them,” he said.
In Brian’s opinion, reading is the single most important factor for a child to succeed in society. He also realized that many of the children that he was tutoring would have been great readers if they had access to books at home.
Driven by his love for the community and for reading, in 2009, Brian started a non-profit in his garage that aimed to help collect, source and distribute books to low-income neighborhoods in Chicagoland.
Brian’s father, Bernie, had been a great influence in his life and instilled in Brian the value of reading. Growing up poor, Bernie had relied on reading to achieve every step of success, eventually attending college and earning a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in reading education. Because of Bernie’s influence, Brian named his new organization for his father – Bernie’s Book Bank.
Brian worked three jobs to make ends meet, all the while he and his wife were expecting a baby, but he never stopped looking ahead to what was possible. Now volunteers from all over Illinois come to the Bernie’s Book Bank headquarters in Lake Bluff, Illinois to help sort, bag and deliver books all over the Chicago area. Working alongside partners, they’ve distributed more than seven million books to children in need since the organization’s founding.
“My father literally read his way to a better life. And I believe everyone deserves a shot. He represents all the children Bernie’s Book Bank serves.”
The Community Impact Award is presented to an individual(s) who displays leadership and commitment to his or her community by making a positive, noticeable and significant impact in society
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