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Why a Gainesville couple is donating 2,200 books to hospital’s neonatal ICU
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Abby Burle holds her son Max Thursday, July 12, 2018 at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center's neonatal Intensive Care Unit as she and husband Ryan unload about 1,000 books the couple collected from a donation drive to give to the ICU. The Burles had triplets stay for an extended period in the Northeast Georgia Medical Center's neonatal ICU last year. - photo by Scott Rogers

When they couldn’t hold or touch their newborn triplets, Abby and Ryan Burle of Gainesville found another way to communicate.

“Reading to them was the only thing we could do that was normal,” Ryan said.

Abby said, “As a mom, it was a comfort thing. It was a way for my babies to hear my voice.”

That simple act, while daughter Maggie and sons Max and Miller were in Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit last year, inspired the couple to start the Mighty Three NICU book drive.

The plan was for “every baby to get two books when they come in the NICU, whether it’s for an hour or six months,” Abby said.

The Burles fulfilled their mission on Thursday, July 12, delivering the first of 2,200 books they had collected to the Gainesville hospital’s Women and Children’s Pavilion. The books, packed in cardboard boxes, were taken to a storage room.

“We didn’t think it would be this successful,” Abby said of the drive.

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Ryan and Abby Burle had triplets in Northeast Georgia Medical Center's neonatal ICU in 2017, stand with the 2,200 books they collected from a donation drive Thursday, July 12, 2018. The Burles are the 2019 Hall County Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes. - photo by Scott Rogers
“Yeah, I thought we would be writing a check for a bunch of books,” Ryan said, with a laugh.

Abby said the goal was to get 850 books, as the couple went about creating an Amazon Wish List for people they knew to buy books in English or Spanish.

“We hit that number within four days,” she said. “And they were all being mailed to our house.”

Also, United Way featured the couple’s efforts in a newsletter, and “that got an individual to donate a thousand books,” Abby said.

As an educator, Ryan especially knows the value of reading.

“I can see the effects of it on kids — those read to as children and those who weren’t read to as much,” said Ryan, who teaches English at East Hall High School. “You see it definitely in high school with their comprehending, literacy and vocabulary.”

Abby, who taught middle school math (she’s now staying at home with the children), said her father, a long-time educator, has long pushed reading books.

“It’s super important to read to your babies,” she said.

The couple is still collecting books, with the goal of bringing a set to the Gainesville hospital at 743 Spring St., as well as the NICU at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton at 1400 River Place in South Hall.

The goal would be 3,500-4,000 books between the two hospitals.

“Hopefully, we have a lot of books left over, because that means there weren’t as many babies down in the NICU,” Ryan said.

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Ryan Burle moves boxes filled with books through the hallway at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center neonatal intensive care unit Thursday, July 12, 2018 to give to parents with babies in the ICU. Burle and wife Abby, who had triplets in Northeast Georgia Medical Center's neonatal ICU last year, are donating some 2,200 books they collected from a donation drive. - photo by Scott Rogers
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