Inspired by What She Found Comfort in After Dad's Cancer Diagnosis, Teen Collects Thousands of Books for Kids

After her dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, Emily Bhatnagar decided to help others in similar situations. She turned her attention to children battling cancer, and thus, the non-profit book drive “For Love and Buttercup” was born.

When Emily Bhatnagar's dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in July 2021, it was a devastating blow.

“I saw how hard it was for him to overcome it, and it's a really tough battle,” Bhatnagar tells Inside Edition Digital.

But instead of looking inward and ruminating about it, she looked outward to help others who may be struggling to understand such a heavy diagnosis at such a young age. And that journey led her to founding a book drive for kids with cancer.

"I've always had a soft spot for kids, so that's why I do it just for kids. But it really put things into perspective for me," she says. 

Bhatnagar, 19, founded a non-profit book drive called “For Love and Buttercup” so others in similar situations can escape through the pages of a book.

“I think I have compassion that some adults don't; [kids] feel things more sensitively, and I think they have the capacity to have a great change in the world and do anything they put their mind to,” Bhatnagar says.

Bhatnagar says she is a romantic, which is how she became interested in certain novels. “It was this selection by Kiera Cass I love so much. It's basically a romance novel. It's my favorite," she says.

The idea initiated as a small drive on the app Nextdoor, where neighbors donated used books, and eventually expanded to include brand new book donations, as hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic were unable to accept used items. The donations have numbered the thousands, as many send books through Bhatnagar's Amazon wish list. She's also grown the project with her earnings from working at her family's Maryland bread shop. 

“Honestly, sometimes... I feel like I'm not doing enough, still. After all, I'm just coordinating book donations; I'm not the one writing these books or such, and I feel like I can be doing more,” Bhatnagar says. 

Bhatnagar's efforts are now a family affair. Her father, who is now cancer free after losing 75% of his vocal cords, helps cart her around. “Number one. It's a little satisfaction that she's around, so I know that she will take care of me if I can't talk or something like that. She talks to a doctor and she talks to people. She is my food supply, all my medicine, she gets some appointments. So I'm so thankful to God and everyone that at least she's taking care of that,” he tells Inside Edition Digital.

And as far as Bhatnagar is concerned, she's only just getting started in growing her passion. 

“I really want to expand," she says. "That would be a dream come true. And maybe I would have a place to store books, because right now I'm still using a corner in my parents' shop. I don't have a certain place where I put books. So that, and then expanding in the East Coast and maybe expanding nationally. And then I want to travel to underdeveloped countries and build schools for children." 

Related Stories