With his voice and book drives, the 12-year-old is turning the page on poverty.
At the age of six, Gabe Eggerling landed his first acting job enabling him to join SAG (Screen Actors Guild Foundation). The youngster’s passion for acting was matched by a love of lit. Sitting in his red superhero cape listening to a bedtime story evolved into Gabe reading a story (or two or three) to his parents and younger brother. Gabe wanted to read out loud to other people to share the magical worlds books held. But who would give a seven-year-old that opportunity? There were many no’s.
But because Gabe was a SAG member, his read-to-others dream became a reality. At seven, Gabe became the youngest member of SAG Book Pals and he began reading to classrooms in schools. While reading to a class of sixth grade students in Compton, a defining moment changed his life. A girl shyly raised her hand, “How can you read so well?”
Gabe answered, “I have a big library of books at home.”
The girl replied in a mumble, “I don’t have any books.”
It was a gut-kick for the young fiction enthusiast. Gabe thought everyone had books. He held it together until he got into the car before breaking down in tears. Hearing there was someone who didn’t own a book changed his whole perspective on the world. He told his mom he wanted to give all his books to the girl with no books. Mom gently told him that it would be a little too expensive to do that. So Gabe set out to find another way to help.
After floating a few crazy (but fun) ideas (e.g. a giant Book Bird dropping books down chimneys like Santa), he set up a website and formed Mission: HERO (Helping Everyone Read Out loud), a non-profit organization.
Gabe visited the Compton school a few more times, but never saw the girl again. He spent a year volunteering, four hours a day, with Learning Ally, an organization supporting the visually impaired and those with Dyslexia. His experience performing their audio books helped him sharpen his craft and perfect different voices. Gabe became a celebrity ambassador for GenerationOn, an organization that inspires youth to take action and change the world through service.
In 2013, Gabe gave a TEDxYouth Talk in front of 1,000 people. For Gabe, it was pure exhilaration (with a side of “scary”). This October, he spoke at the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy event in front of 2,500 people. Facing these intimidating situations, a wise-beyond-years Gabe says, “Butterflies mean you care.”
Gabe solicits the help of friends and fellow actors to donate books and their time. He and his brother have learned how to write grants. From November 23 to December 23, Gabe will be an instrumental part of Joy Maker, GenerationOn’s annual challenge and call to kids and teens to meaningful hands-on service for the joy of others.
And if Gabe ever crossed paths with “the girl with no books” who started it all?
“Well, one, I’d walk up to her and give her a book because I have a lot of books I bring with me almost everywhere I go. And, then I would thank her. I would straight up thank her and give her a hug.”
Gabe might have outgrown that red cape, but it’s no longer needed. He’s flying high, guided by his heart, changing lives.
Join Gabe’s efforts and support his mission “to get a book in every kid’s hand around the world” at www.gabeeggerling.com.