STERLING, Va. — It was supposed to be a routine delivery to a school outside Washington, but when UPS driver Ronn Lonon arrived at Sugarland Elementary, he realized he had an additional role to play.
"The principal was having a conversation with a little guy and I was just delivering a package," remembers Lonon. "And he [the kid] was kind of being a little, I guess, trying to be a little difficult."
Without hesitation, Lonon delivered.
"I said, 'Hey, what's going on here?" recalls Lonon. "And the kid basically snapped to attention."
The fatherly intervention earned a heartfelt thanks from the principal, and in the seven years since, Lonon has stayed. He's mentored students after school, formed a group called Sugardads to inspire more male involvement at the school and even helped raise money for the school lunch program.
"He really does everything that's needed to make a difference in a child's life," says Sugarland principal Jennifer Ostrowski.
Yet, for all he'd done, Lonon wanted to do even more. He remembered how reading to that frustrated little boy he had met at the school early on seemed to calm the child, and so he began a Read to Me program. In all, children in the program have read more than 55,000 books since 2002.
Once a year — on Dr. Seuss' birthday, of course — reading milestones are celebrated. Lonon talked local businesses into donating prizes — from bikes and TVs to crayons, and an overwhelming favorite, pizza parties.
"Those games, those crayons, they'll go bad," Lonon tells the children. "But the knowledge you have from that book, that will be with you always."
It's a message well received by students.
"I'm not really in for the prizes, I'm in for the reading," says student Jeffrey Dinh.
Lonon, too, feels rewarded — by letters of thanks.
"Without you we would be sitting down watching TV right now, but instead we're reading and helping others," reads one of the letters. "You now changed my life to make it better."
He's making a difference, one book, and one hug at a time.
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