Back in August the news of Folsom resident and children’s author Jen Sweeney made headlines when she launched a children’s book drive to help the children of Maui, many of which lost everything in the devastating and deadly wildfires that swept through the area. Now, a month later, Sweeney has found herself inundated with some 20,000 pounds of donated books and is focused on her next mission – getting them to the island.

The project all started when Sweeney, a former resident of Lahaina, saw the devastating news of the tragedy that had struck her former homeland. Like many, she cried as she saw the images of the devastation and read the reports of abundant loss the residents were suffering, including that of human life.


“I cried for three days,” said Sweeney back in her interview in August. Then she realized she could put her passion as a children’s author to work and came up with the idea of the children’s book drive. “As a children’s author, I know I could do something,” she said.

Starting off with a collection of her own book, Sweeney then reached out to the community and beyond. She posted her mission on various writer’s forums online and reached out to other authors industry wide. After collecting an initial batch of books that added up to about 2,000, Sweeney made a trip to Lahaina last month to distribute what she could transport and distribute herself. She has since shipped additional stockpiles as well.


“I gave out books for two days at a Round Table Pizza in Lahaina, the owner Dave Mello gives away pizzas there and takes donations for families in need,” said Sweeney. “He and his wife lost their home as well. I later mailed off additional boxes of books to him so he has books there for the families that are displaced and in area hotels around him.”

This week, Sweeney will ship another ten boxes of books to Maui on her own, but it’s just a small token of the task at hand. Due to the overwhelming response of the donations, she can’t possibly fund moving the massive mountain of boxed books stacked throughout her home and garage to Maui on her own. To ship 20,000 pounds books, they must be palletized properly and the estimates to do so have come in as high as $15,000.


“I got a quote from a shipping company that is willing to give me their cost for shipping the 20,000 pounds of books, but even that is still a lot,” Sweeney explained. “I spoke to the chief of donations at Maui Emergency Management, and they are going to find places to disperse the whole 20,000 pounds, but we still need to find a way to get them there. I’ve also been in contact with the American Red Cross, the schools and the libraries that are in need of books there.”


Despite the costly bump in the road on her mission, Sweeney is determined to get the generous donation of books to the island in the next month. She has launched a fundraising drive to help with the cost of shipping and has started a GoFundMe page here in an effort to raise the $15,000 needed to get the job done and hopes the community will pitch in.

“I can’t let this fizzle out, I used to live in Lahaina and I’m just so invested in this. I know books are not money or a new home, but they are a way to have your mind occupied, the families I saw were so thankful to have their children engulfed in something besides the thought of just losing everything,” said Sweeney. “This little boy came in and he was about 10, we asked him if he liked to read and he said (he) used to until all this happened. We went over and talked to him and everything and he left with about ten books. And then this other little girl showed me pictures on her phone of her dad’s house burning down. Trajan elementary wrote letters to Lahaina children and then they received a thank you card that I brought back with me.”


Sweeney is not relying on the GoFundMe page alone. She knows all too often fundraising starts off briskly, then it decreases before the goal is met.

“I received so much response from the article last month. I just don’t want people to push the island to the back of their mind,” said Sweeney, who has since appeared on local television and radio about her efforts. In addition to the GoFundMe page, she has also been reaching out to area businesses that are also pitching in on the effort. Even as she does, more books continue to arrive to her home daily.

“I have one lady that has 3,000 elementary aged books that are all boxed that she is donating this week,” said Sweeney. “They just keep coming in.”

When the funds are established, the books will be properly palletized and trucked to the Bay Area. From there they will be placed into a container and sent off to the island. Sweeney plans to meet the shipment when it arrives to make sure it goes off without any issues and the books get to the children.

Those wishing to donate to the GoFundMe page and assist Sweeney in her efforts can FIND IT BY CLICKING RIGHT HERE or simply search “Jen Sweeney” at to find her.  Those interested in helping can also contact her directly at (808) 465-6140 or by email at:


Last month, Folsom resident and author Jen Sweeney delivered some 2000 children’s books to Maui. While she was there she witnessed the gratitude from the families and heard their stories of enduring the wildfires. 

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan

Bill Sullivan has over 25 years of professional journalism and content creation experience in which he has earned 37 professional awards. He is the co-founder/publisher of Folsom Times an All Town Media LLC product.