Badges & Books, a program of Auburn’s Project Nova, Inc, debuted last Thursday at the Auburn Fire Rescue Department. With firefighters and police officers joining Project Nova President Michelle Spano, the program was explained and initiated.

According to Spano, “The mission of Badges & Books is to stock first responder vehicles with bags containing new chapter, activity, and picture books (some along with matching stuffed animals) that first responders can gift to a child in crisis. Research shows that the damaging effects of trauma can actually alter a child’s brain. Our program intends to interrupt this process by offering a book or activity to a child to help them briefly escape from the crisis situation they are exposed to and attempt to prevent this traumatic rewiring of the brain.”

The Spanos formed Project Nova after their daughter “Penelope was born with a birth defect requiring a 13 hour surgery and prolonged hospital stay immediately following her birth. Not until moving out of the NICU and down to the post-operative floor where Penny would remain for a few weeks did we realize just how lucky Penny was. She had two parents, and one of them was always able to be by her side, every second of every day.

What we saw around us were children who required much longer hospital stays, and their families who had no choice but to return to work or return home to families in different cities, states, and even countries. We watched the 7 year-old “Mayor” of the floor tear up nightly as his family said goodbye. We saw the 2 year-old twin whose brother lived in Canada scream and cry for mommy and dada when they had to fly back home. And we listened to the constant cries of Penny’s roommate Nova, who never had a visitor to miss or long for.”

Four bags were given to the fire department which will place one in each staffed ambulance and one in each front line engine. The police department received 12 bags for cruisers and the dispatch center. A restocking bag was also placed with each agency.

Spano said the 30 books in each bags were specifically chosen for their content and cover from infants to teenagers. Each bag costs $300 which was raised through donations. This year’s fundraiser “Silent Knights” will be held on December 8th from 1-5pm at St. Joseph Parish Center on Central St.

The family friendly event will feature games, prizes and a silent auction. Proceeds will fund all the charitable efforts of Project Nova. Two other programs are in the works for Project Nova: Penny’s Pals and Cordelia Cares. Auburn Mass Daily will provide more information as they develop.

During Thursday’s announcement Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Johnson stated that 10% of the department’s medical calls are for children. Even if a child is not directly involved during an incident, he can still be traumatized by the event which might be an accident, a domestic violence situation or other event.

Spano said Project Nova plans to reach out to other communities if they are interested in joining the Badges & Books program. During the unveiling, Penelope (4 years) and Harrison (1 year) Spano served as models for the many cameras in the room.

If one thinks about the potential value in Badges & Books, consider that in its first 24-hours, the Auburn Police Department gifted books to children in three different incidents. This is one terrific program.