Start a business? At age 8, Fresno girl can check that off with her charity

Though just 8 years old, Danay Ferguson was eager to run her own business.

The Fresno girl wanted to open a bookstore — that was, until she realized some people wouldn’t be able to afford the books. Her goal shifted: She would donate books to those less fortunate in hospitals.

Her parents’ response? Why not!

“Our belief as parents is they are never too young to learn,” said father Dwayne Ferguson, supported by his wife, Vanessa. “It doesn’t matter if she’s 8 or 18. If she wants to do it, let’s go for it.”

Last month, the third-grader registered Reading Heart ("because I read with my own heart,” she said) and became the youngest person in Fresno County history to file a business name.

Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, honored Danay for her accomplishment Friday during this year’s African-American Heritage Awards ceremony in west Fresno.

“I think at some point, everyone in this room is going to be working for Danay,” Perea said with a smile.

This is the fourth year Perea has hosted the awards, which coincide with Black History Month. Danay won for youth activism. Five others were honored.

Danay, whose home is in northwest Fresno, started her business in September and has since collected 3,000 books.

“I decided to do this business because the kids in the hospital, they get bored,” Danay said before accepting her award from Perea. “But when you give a book to them, it makes them use their imagination and act like they are escaped from the hospital.

“And the kids less fortunate, they usually are in other places where there aren’t many books or they don’t have enough money to afford a book. But, you see, when you give a book to the kids less fortunate, it makes them happy.”

After a wave of booming applause, Danay whispered into Perea’s ear: “Can I thank my family?”

“Of course.”

“But what I mostly want to say is that I really want to thank my family and the people that supported me because I really like this, how it’s going on.”

Danay donated her first load of books on Monday to around 50 children and adults at the Ronald McDonald House. The facility, located next to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County, provides free lodging for families with children hospitalized with long-term illnesses.

“What I like about reading is the author inspires the reader and at the end of the book, there is always a lesson about what to do or what not to do,” Danay said. “But what I really like about books is it also helps you get more education.”

Danay was forced to take a short break from her business last fall when she came home with two B’s on her school progress report. Now back to straight A’s, she also plays the piano and is a softball and soccer player.

“We couldn’t be any more proud,” her father said. Her parents, who run Over Color Design/Print, had Danay apply for a business name as a learning experience. Danay opened a bank account and will file paperwork within the week in hopes of making Reading Heart a nonprofit.

One of her favorite parts of the job: Checking Reading Hearts’ Facebook page to see her new fans.

Danay is planning her next book donation at Valley Children’s Hospital. Those interested in donating books can check Reading Heart’s website (www.readingheart.org) or Facebook page for drop-off locations, or call Dwayne Ferguson at (559) 933-7444. Donations to buy books can also be made via the business’ website or through a GoFundMe account.

Said Perea: “Danay, you are a fantastic role model and I look forward to hopefully voting for you one day.”