Tiffany's story continues as annual book donation honors teen's memory

Labels honoring Tiffany Leonard are placed on some of the 500 books delivered by Tanya Heintz of Fairfax to the St. Luke
Labels honoring Tiffany Leonard are placed on some of the 500 books delivered by Tanya Heintz of Fairfax to the St. Luke’s Center for Women’s and Children’s Health in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Heintz makes the annual donation in honor of her daughter, Tiffany Leonard, who died in a car accident in 1999. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A year after her teenage daughter died in a car crash, Tanya Heintz needed to do something to remember her.

Her clearest memory of her child, Tiffany Leonard, was of her on the back porch, reading to her sister and their neighbors. So she decided to collect and donate a few books.

“The first year,” Heintz, 59, remembered of her donation in 2000, “I thought, ‘If I get to 50 books, it will be OK.’”

Instead, friends and family flooded her with 1,000 books that year, and the donations haven’t stopped.

Nearly two decades since her first donation, she has donated at least 10,000 books, most to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital.

She dropped off nearly 600 books at St. Luke’s Women’s and Children’s Center on Thursday.

It’s a ritual she said has helped her through her grieving process.

“When you do something nice for someone, it makes your heart happy and when your heart is happy, your whole life feels complete,” Heintz said. “And sometimes after losing someone so special in your life, especially your child, it’s hard to have a happy heart.”


Tiffany worked at a preschool when she died, according to past Gazette reporting, and planned to work with children.

“I could relate this to her,” said Heintz, who works in the College Community School District. “She was always just a happy, fun-loving kind of girl. She was the sunshine of our lives.”

The books are all labeled with a photo of Tiffany and young patients get to take them home, a hospital spokeswoman said.

“It’s a way for people to remember her every year and bring memories back about her every year,” Heintz said. “ ... I know Tiff is so proud of all of us for keeping this heartwarming project going to keep her memory alive.”

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