If you ask Therese Van Ryne, the head of global public relations, thought leadership, and advocacy for Zebra Technologies, to describe her last year in one word—“grateful” comes to mind. Van Ryne, a newly elected trustee for her current home Lake Barrington, had always thought she might one day write a book, but the demands of being a married mother of three with a storied career kept that dream at bay. Until one rainy afternoon in April 2020, she found herself with a wide-open afternoon.
“This kind of free time was rare prior to the pandemic,” says Van Ryne. “But here I was, with an idea for a children’s story, featuring Zebra’s company mascot ‘Zippy’ as my main character. I wrote the whole book that afternoon.”
In her role with Zebra Technologies—a global technology company that brings a performance edge to the front line of business—Van Ryne has shared many stories of the company’s innovations and team-based culture. But in her first book, Zippy’s Special Gift, Zippy is the protagonist in a tale in which the young zebra realizes everyone has something unique to offer.
“Zippy the Zebra doesn’t like her stripes. She doesn’t want to stand out,” says Van Ryne. “In this rhyme-based book, readers follow Zippy as she embarks upon a thrilling adventure with her animal friends that helps her realize everyone is perfect just the way they are. My hope is that this story will inspire people of all ages to see the good in others and instill a sense of belonging.”
Van Ryne notes that even when she reads her book today, she’s reminded of how important it is to teach our children well, so that when the time comes for them to fly, they can—and will.
As if these important messages weren’t enough, Zebra Technologies is donating all proceeds from the sale of Zippy’s Special Gift to Bernie’s Book Bank, an organization dedicated to getting more books into the hands of local under-served children.
“Bernie’s Book Bank has been a strategic charitable partner of Zebra Technologies long before this book came to life,” she says. “Through the advocacy side of my role at Zebra, I lead our global philanthropy and volunteer program through which we contribute time, treasure, and talent in our local communities. I had the great fortune of participating in a book distribution at a local elementary school with Bernie’s Book Bank prior to the pandemic, and I can honestly say it was one of the best days of my life. To see the excitement in the children’s faces when they opened their bright green bags and looked at their new books is something I’ll never forget.”
A leading provider of quality books to under-served children in the Chicago area, Bernie’s Book Bank sources, processes, and distributes quality new and gently used children’s books to significantly increase book ownership.
“Before the pandemic, we had meetings on site in the organization’s Lake Bluff facility,” Van Ryne explains. “We even hosted a global town hall that many of our employees based in our Lincolnshire headquarters attended in person while our other 8,000 employees located around the world enjoyed it virtually.”
As part of Zebra’s support of Bernie’s Book Bank, the company has donated its latest scanning technology to help increase the efficiency of its book sorting and distribution. This operational improvement is the same impact Zebra is making with its customers globally.
“Watching how we work with Bernie’s Book Bank made me really think about the word ‘partner,’ and the relationships we build through our outreach,” she says. “What can happen as a result is so powerful.”
And so is selling more than 2,000 books, which at press time is exactly what Van Ryne has done. Zebra agreed to match this number as a donation to Bernie’s Book Bank, in addition to the proceeds raised. Van Ryne was also a guest author at the Storybook Festival Bernie’s hosted in May where she read her book aloud.
“This whole process has been so amazing—from working with the editors and illustrator and Mascot Publishing to doing a 28-stop virtual book tour,” she adds. “And I’m so grateful to the leadership of Zebra Technologies for encouraging me to express my creativity and showcase our company’s culture in this way. It’s not unique for us to be this creative. The values that Zippy espouses in this book are the very same values we live every day when we engage with our customers and partners and serve our communities.”
With the success of Zippy’s Special Gift, there is an audible clamor for a sequel.
“There has been so much support for this project—both from Zebra and my family,” Van Ryne says. “Zippy has so many great stories to share. It’s a definite possibility.”
Zippy’s Special Gift can be purchased on Amazon and through other online retailers.