The Ebersold family suffered a terrible loss when 9-year-old Clayton was fatally struck by a car in 2007. Clayton crossed the road to check the mail, hopeful to find a brand new book inside. There was no package and as Clayton crossed back, he was hit by a station wagon in front of his home in Fredonia, WI. The book arrived two days after Clayton passed and was buried with Clayton.
Books were a fond part of Clayton’s memory that became his legacy. He was a veracious reader and always had a book nearby. His family kept extra books in the car in case he finished one while out at the grocery store. Classmates at Ozaukee elementary were encouraged by Clayton to find exciting new reads. After Clayton’s untimely passing, his family found a way to keep that passion alive.
The Ebersold family started Clayton’s Collection, an annual book drive, to share the joy that Clayton found in the pages of a book. It’s also a way for the Ebersolds to come together over Clayton’s love. Cheryl and Clinton, Clayton’s parents, collect books from local businesses and organizations. After school and on weekends, Cayleigh helps sort the books and attach her brother’s picture and memorial. In its four year history, Clayton’s Collections brought in more than 13,000 books.
The first year’s books were sent to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The following year supported flood victims in Tennessee. In 2009, Cheryl saw Bess the Book Bus in People Magazine and saw a chance to share Clayton’s love, Clayton’s story, across the country.
Bess traveled to Wisconsin in 2010 to receive the Ebersolds’ gift. We embraced Clayton’s memory by dedicating a special special shelf for his books and always keeping his picture on board. His books reached coast to coast, helping children who need encouraging friends like Clayton to keep reading.
The 2011 Transitions/VSP Success is in Sight Tour returned to Fredonia. Clayton’s Collection held its biggest book drive yet, receiving more than 4,000 books. We visited the Ozaukee Elementary, home of Clayton’s Corner. A section of the school’s library was decorated in camouflage, Clayton’s favorite, and shelved with his favorite books. Classmates made banners that hang in his memory. One banner reads:
“We will remember Clayton Ebersold as our kind friend who had a passion for reading and cared enough about each of us to share what he had learn so that we could learn too.
His warm smile.
His funny shirts.
His hilarious jokes.
Clayton taught us about friendship simply by being our friend. It was easy to be around him because he treated us with kindness and respect. There will always be a bright spot in our hearts especially for Clay.”