10th Claire’s Day will be its biggest celebrationWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ten years ago, reeling from the sudden death of their 10-year-old daughter Claire, Brad and Julie Rubini of Maumee found inspiration in the most unlikely of places.
On an airplane, browsing through a Time magazine stuffed into the seat pocket, Julie came across an article about First Lady Laura Bush and her involvement with the Texas Book Festival.
“As I read through the story, tears came to my eyes. I handed it to my husband and said ‘I think I found the answer of how we can honor Claire,’” Julie said. “I felt like it was divine intervention and ever since then, throughout all of the challenges, throughout all of the wonderful opportunities, I just felt it was so right and I still feel that way.”
The 10th annual Claire’s Day is set for 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 21 at the Maumee Branch Library, 501 River Road. More than 30 children’s authors and illustrators will be in attendance at the free family event, which draws thousands of visitors each year. Each child who comes will be entered into a drawing for a free, signed book.
“There’s just such an awesome feeling surrounding Claire’s Day,” Julie said. “I am often asked what Claire would think about the day. I think she would be so amazed how her friends, family and community are remembering her and honoring her.”
Claire Lynsey Rubini died July 6, 2000, of an undiagnosed heart condition while at Camp Libbey.
“There were a combination of factors that led to her death,” Julie said. “Very few know the realities of how she actually died, but it was very saddening and it was very angering and I could have buried myself in how she left us, but something in me made me want to remember all the joy outside of how she left us. I know she knows she was loved and I know she had a wonderful time while she was here with us, but I didn’t really get to say goodbye to her, so maybe that’s what drives all of this.”
The family was compelled to work through their grief by remembering and celebrating Claire’s spirit and her love for reading and storytelling, Julie said.
“I am amazed by those who are inspired by her story because really at the very core of that is a mom who just needed to do what she could to keep her head above the water and to raise her two other children and to remember her child that was gone,” Julie said. “I’m amazingly touched and honored and humbled by those who are touched by what we’ve done, but it was just a mechanism for me to heal.”
Now, 10 years into their grief journey, the Rubinis feel ready to scale back their involvement in Claire’s Day.
“It’s an entire letting-go process,” said Julie, who published a children’s book in 2009 and plans to devote more time to her writing. “I keep using the analogy of raising children. It’s like sending our daughter off to college. Sure, I miss her dearly, but I feel confident knowing she is confident and very capable. That’s how I feel about stepping away from Claire’s Day. I am so ready. It hasn’t been easy and there will be tears shed, but I just feel like I’m in a really great place and am so glad to be able to turn over what has grown into something so much bigger than us.”
David Justus, a Maumee resident with more than 20 years nonprofit experience, was hired in January as Claire’s Day Inc.’s first executive director and first paid employee.
“He is a very nice combination of a visionary who generates ideas as well as someone who follows through on those ideas,” Julie said.
Justus said it’s been amazing to see the passion, coordination and effort put into Claire’s Day by everyone involved.
“Brad and Julie are wonderful inspirations, I think not only to myself but to the community,” Justus said. “This is really their project to honor Claire and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
The first year after she died, the family took comfort when objects in Claire’s favorite color — purple — kept presenting themselves in unusual circumstances.
“We got to a point where we’d just giggle as a family and said, ‘Hey, Claire, thanks,’” Julie said.
The inuagural Claire’s Day in 2002 was a resounding success.
“It was everything and then some that I could have hoped for,” Julie said. “Still today, with what we’ve created, that very first year remains as the foundation for what Claire’s Day is.”
Claire’s Day is held the third Saturday in May because of its proximity to Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Claire’s birthday.
“I remember asking one of the committee members ‘How many [authors] should I invite?’ She said, ‘I don’t know, just keep inviting them,’ so I did and they kept all saying yes!” Julie said, laughing.
Author Mary Kay Carson said Claire’s Day is special.
“There are a lot of book festivals out there, but none other that I know of that was started out of such pure love of reading,” Carson wrote in an email. “Claire’s Day is like nothing else.”
People started asking if Claire’s Day would become an annual event.
“My response to that question was, ‘She was with us for 10 years, I could see doing this for 10 years,’ and it’s amazing how prophetic those words were,” Julie said. “Claire’s Day has done so much for us as a family than I ever could have imagined and now it’s time to let go.”
Although she feels ready, moving on from her role with Claire’s Day is bittersweet in part because a new logo and website, designed by AIGA Toledo, were recently debuted, retiring the original logo featuring a little girl with angel wings.
“That’s a huge thing. Talk about letting go — our angel is gone,” Julie said. “I really sense her spirit here and I think she keeps watches over us, but even now, 10 years, it’s still hard. The passage of time helps, but while we are all in many ways the same as when she was with us, we are in many ways very different. She only lived for 10 years, but she has had a tremendous impact on people who have never even met her and I feel honored by that. I feel a tremendous sense of pride to know that who she was as a young lady and as a reader has inspired children to want to read more.
“It’s been an awesome and amazing 10 years and I feel very grateful that we have had such incredible support throughout the years and that it’s continuing into the future. It will be very exciting to see how the organization continues to move forward from here.”
For more information, visit www.clairesday.org. O