In 2010, Cary mom Vanita Sehgal decided she wanted to write down the fairy tales her mother, Kamla Bhagowalia of Morrisville, used to tell her at bedtime.
Bhagowalia was delighted and agreed to illustrate the project. Soon Sehgal brought in her friend, Nan Garg, and the three women were able to publish “Mom’s Fairytales.”
While putting the book together, Garg and Sehgal, best friends who have traveled together with their families for years, had an idea: why not write another book?
“As we traveled, we got these ideas about writing a storybook for little boys, and that’s how ‘Zach’s Adventures’ came to be,” said Garg. The duo wrote five “Zach” books.
If you’re keeping count, that’s six books total. Along the way, Sehgal’s father was diagnosed with cancer. Watching her father go through treatment gave both Sehgal and Garg another idea.
“We’re blessed that my dad has insurance,” said Sehgal, “but there are so many people in our community that need a lot of help, that get diagnosed with cancer and can’t pay their bills.”
In September, the women gave away their books—more than 1,500—to children’s hospitals in the Triangle and around the country.
“It’s a way for all of these children, while they’re waiting to undergo all kinds of treatment, they can escape for a while and travel to different lands and lose themselves for a little bit,” said Garg, an occupational therapist.
Sehgal, a Spanish professor at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, translated each book into Spanish as well. Books in both languages were sent to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Rex Healthcare Foundation, Duke University Medical Center, UNC Children’s Hospital and the Homestead Hospital in Homestead, Florida.
“We were thrilled to receive the books,” said Dr. Priya Kishnani, the division chief of medical genetics at Duke University Medical Center. “It was such a thoughtful gesture from Nan and Vanita and so apt for the children at Duke, many of whom spend long periods of time there receiving treatment.”
Sehgal and Garg spent more than $8,000 out of pocket to publish nearly 2,500 books. The books they didn’t give away were sold, donating the profits to the Caring Community Foundation, a Cary non-profit dedicated to helping cancer patients pay their bills.
“Vanita and Nan are wonderful people and amazing supporters of the foundation,” says Jill Wolford, founder of the Caring Community Foundation. “Their contributions allow us to help needy cancer patients in the Triangle community, and they serve as great examples of what giving is all about. Donations to the foundation assist with rent, utilities, groceries and other expenses that become even more difficult to manage during cancer treatment.”
Only one box of books remains, and the women have decided to hold onto it to remind them of all the friends and family who gathered not so long ago around Sehgal’s dining room table to bundle book donations.
“We just sent an email out and everyone showed up,” said Sehgal. “It brought this entire community of friends together for a great cause. We truly are blessed.”