Local Twelve Year Old Makes a Difference.
By Linda Bausch
Some people you meet are extraordinary. I knew this was going to be true about Chris Olivier the minute he approached me at a local trade show. He seemed to have more on his mind than gathering tchotchkes or candy from vendors. I told him that I thought I recognized him, and he said it was probably because there had been some stories written about his recent volunteer effort – collecting books for victims of the devastating Valley Fire in Middletown.
The Olivier family, Rich, Leti and Chris, as many others, had lost so much in the South Napa earthquake. Chris didn’t lose his books though, and reading was a safe haven for him; providing a good way to take his mind off of the recovery challenge the tight-knit family faced after the quake.
Valley Fire victims had lost everything. Chris knew that meant their books burned too, and he was compelled to help. Thanks to his social media savvy, using Facebook to put out a call to action, Chris connected with local business owners; Sylvan, BOHO style, and Napa Bookmine, who each helped Chris’ mission in their own way. Middletown school teacher, Jacqueline Caviness, also had the same idea, collecting books and cash to help the cause. Even visiting tourists saw the posts and pitched in. Chris collected one thousand books on his own, give-or-take a few!
Chris and his parents made the trek to Middletown to deliver the books. He relished seeing the excited, happy faces of youngsters, who had lost everything in the fire, anxiously waiting their turn to peruse the stacks. He encouraged everyone to take more than one book. “Take as many books as you want. If it’s a ‘series’, take all of them so you know how the story turns out!” Most only wanted to take one or two books, concerned that if they took more, someone else might go without.
Thoughtfulness overshadowed desire.
This was not his first book-focused effort. Years back, Chris traveled his Napa neighborhood with a wagon filled with books, sharing his bounty with others. He called it the Little Rolling Library.
For a few years, Chris had wanted to build a structure to house a “Little Free Library” at their home, where others could pick up or drop off books. His parents thought this idea would pass, until one year, Chris decided Chris decided to skip a trip to the fair and use the money and time to build his library. Chris and his dad put their heads and hearts together and built a little shed that became Chris’ “Free Library,” offering a reading or donating opportunity to anyone passing by their St. Helena home. Stop by Doris Court, and get a book to read!
I soon learned the ‘book’ story was only a small fraction of what this young man has accomplished in his 12 years.
Chris is one of millions afflicted with multiple, possibly fatal, food allergies. He is allergic to many things most people eat every day. Chris must be on guard at all times. He is highly vigilant of his surroundings; where and how his food is prepared, who is eating ‘what’ in close proximity to him, and he must be in control of every food item he encounters. Imagine his fear when overhearing adults at a school he used to attend, asking each other if they knew, “Where is Chris’ Epi pen?” (An Epi pen is an auto-injector device, containing a pre-measured dose of epinephrine, which must be administered immediately upon an allergen contamination in order to reverse the life-threatening reaction.) Unfortunately, he knows all too well what it feels like to have his throat begin to swell and close off. His life depends on quick and easy access to an Epi pen.
One day, Chris overheard his mom on the phone, she was being asked to take a lead role as advocate for a grassroots Bay Area organization, advocating for those suffering from allergies. Knowing her limits, and having a very “full plate” being a mom, wife, and working, Leti thoughtfully declined the request. Chris decided to take action. He would take on the role his mother turned down.
He wrote up a “plan” and created Northern California Allergy and Asthma Advocates, or “NC-triple-A,” as Chris refers to it, and named his mother Co-Founder. Videos with important updates and vital information on the topic are easily found on their Facebook and YouTube pages.
In 2014, Chris, along with physicians and other young allergy sufferers, were invited by California Senator, Bob Huff, to testify in front of the California legislature in favor of SB1266, a bill authored by Senator Huff. SB1266 would mandate changes to existing laws on the subject of food allergy reactions and students’ safety in all school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools; as well as provide training (and legal protection) for volunteers willing to administer the medication, without delay, when needed. In light of his life experience and level of maturity, Chris Olivier was deemed a “professional witness.” Wow.
With the help of these testimonials from the physicians, and insightful young citizens like Chris, Senator’s Huff’s bill passed unanimously, and became law in January 2015. As if that wasn’t enough, he also plans to go back to the legislature to help strengthen existing “bullying” laws.
Now in the 7th grade at Blue Oak School, Chris and his classmates helped with a shoe drive benefiting Soles4Souls, a world-wide organization, collecting and distributing shoes for those in need. Year round donations will be collected and stored by Chris.
Chris has volunteered at St. Helena Library since 2013, at the age of nine. He hopes to be hired for his first job there, and plans to open his own book store one day.
It’s not all work for Chris though; he loves to play guitar. One of his favorite pastimes is going to guitar shops and playing his dream instruments. He is talented, and hopes to become a musician and artist. Playing golf on a team is also something Chris is looking forward too.
Thinking of college, on his list of possibilities; MIT, Harvey Mudd or Cal Tech, he is leaning toward Harvey Mudd because “It’s a better return on our investment.”
Chris said, “My ultimate dream is to be a supercar designer. The man that influenced me with his design is Horacio Pagani. You should look him up as he has an amazing story!”
Chris hopes to take his projects world-wide, providing Books for all ages and shoe donations for disaster victims and others in need. Let’s all join Chris with his efforts. Books (for all ages) and shoe donations may be dropped off at the Olivier’s business location; TEM Performance, 1785 Tannen Street, Napa. Anyone interested in contacting Chris regarding all the great ideas and future projects he has in store, may email him (sent to his mom) at
Rich and Leti – keep it up, you are doing