— A teacher almost lost it one year, and another time it nearly fell right out of a bookshelf and spoiled the surprise. But eventually, a heartwarming high school graduation gift that was 13 years in the making reached its intended recipient.
Starting when she was five years old, every one of Brenna Martin's teachers and coaches signed a copy of the Dr. Seuss classic “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’’ At her graduation from North Johnston High in North Carolina on June 8, Bryan and Evelynn Martin presented the gift to their daughter.
At first she thought it was the standard version of the book, which is a popular graduation present, before realizing it was much more.
“The first page was my kindergarten teacher, and I haven’t talked to my kindergarten teacher since kindergarten so it kind of took me back,’’ Brenna said on TODAY Monday. “When they explained it all and I looked through it...there’s really no words.’’
Brenna tweeted her appreciation, then blogged about it. She posted a link to her blog post on Reddit, where it quickly went viral: Her blog has since received more than 20 million page views. It’s even made her a minor celebrity at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, where she is an incoming freshman.
“A guy stopped me in the food line and said, ‘I feel like I know you,’’’ Brenna told Natalie Morales. “I said, ‘I don’t know you.’ Turns out he was a (Reddit user), too.’’
Her father first came up with the idea when he was an elementary school principal and a parent asked him and some teachers to sign a copy of the book for her child.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be neat if you expand that and do it over the course of kindergarten and high school?’’’ he said.
The next hurdle was keeping it hidden from their daughter for more than a decade without spoiling the surprise. It spent some time on the top of a walk-in closet, then was wedged in a bookshelf and finally was tucked away for a few years in Bryan’s office. One year, a teacher misplaced it, and another time it nearly fell out of the bookshelf into plain view while Brenna was helping her mother clean up around the house.
“It hit me what it was,’’ Evelyn said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and I had to kind of stealthly go and hide it someplace else so she wouldn’t see it.’’
Brenna read aloud one passage from her middle school track coach.
“Brenna, never stop running in the race of life regardless of the obstacles you face,’’ she read. “Continue to be that dedicated person that you are and you will succeed. It was great coaching you, Coach Baker.’’
“Yes the intended effect occurred... I burst out in tears,’’ Brenna wrote on her blog at Imgur.com. “Sitting there reading through this book, there are encouraging and sweet words from every teacher I love and remember through my years in this small town.
“It is astounding to receive something this moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful. I can't express how much I love my Dad for this labor of love.’’