Hi everyone, it's Laura. I hope that you are having a lovely April. For this post, I'm going to talk a little bit about the truly inspirational Stephanie Squicciarini, the founder of Teen Book Fest, who sadly passed away last year.
I did not have the privilege of knowing Stephanie well, being a new blogger last year. However, I still remember getting to meet Stephanie for the first time and being so impressed by her obvious passion for Teen Book Fest. I met her at the George Eastman 5k, where I was running on the Teen Book Fest team. The mood was cheerful and fun, certainly permeated with the feeling of kinship between a group of people wearing caps (because authors are superheros- yes, we had the best costumes) and joined together by their mutual love of books. Stephanie welcomed me into the group and introduced herself. Immediately, she noticed that I was not wearing a Teen Book Fest t-shirt (I did not own one at the time). That certainly wouldn’t do, as the TBF kinship was trying to showcase our mutual love of all things Teen Book Fest that day, so she gave me a TBF t-shirt. I remember thinking that it was so kind of her to welcome me into the group in such a way.
I knew that I was meeting an extraordinary woman, but I wish that I knew at the time just how extraordinary she was. I later learned all about Stephanie: a veritable hero and legend for all that she did for the teens of Rochester. Stephanie was the one to found TBF, in an effort to give the teens (and adults) of Rochester a chance to meet with their favorite authors. I wonder if she knew from the beginning what a wonderful gift she was giving to Rochester’s population of bookworms, allowing us to meet some of our idols, such as Roshani Chokshi, who came last year (and is incredibly friendly) and Marissa Meyer, who came a few years ago. Stephanie also was instrumental in the establishment of the Irondequoit Public Library, which I got a chance to visit last year. I was blown away by the beauty of the library and completely awestruck by Stephanie’s hard work to make the library such a lovely place. However, it was the stories about Stephanie that really showed who she was. During that day at the library, I heard so many heartwarming stories about Stephanie advocating for the new library because she recognized the power of books, Stephanie showing resilience to make the library a reality, and Stephanie showing great kindness to her friends and companions. One story that stuck out to me was that Stephanie would always send chocolate in the mail along with her letters. It seems like such a small thing, but it truly shows Stephanie’s spirit of kindness.
Stephanie was an incredible woman and a true superhero. The gift that she gave to the teens of Rochester was remarkable: a chance to hear stories and be empowered by their content. Stephanie recognized the true beauty of words and shared it with everyone who knew her. The Rochester teen community will always be indebted to Stephanie and will never forget her. Stephanie left a rich legacy that will live on in a Rochester community forever grateful for her.