About 600 attendees at this year’s Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ “Wild Wild” Midwest conference in Naperville, Ill., held from April 29-May 1, got into the spirit of the gathering by going wild with their cash over diversity: within a 28-hour period, conference attendees raised $3,979 and donated it to We Need Diverse Books. Carrie Pearson, Wild Wild Midwest SCBWI Conference 2016 co-chair, described the donations as “totally organic and unexpected.” It was prompted by WNDB committee members Linda Sue Park, Miranda Paul, and agent Marietta Zacker’s report to attendees, who hailed from a five-state region in the Heartland, about the two-year-old organization, its mission, and its activities to the SCBWI’s general assembly on Saturday morning, the second day of the three-day gathering of members representing SCBWI’s Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa regional chapters.

According to Park, that after the trio’s presentation, which included a report on the WNDB’s Walter Dean Myers Award and grants, as well as WNDB’s mentorship and internship programs, audience member Karmen Kooyers, from Holland, Mich., took the floor and suggested “passing the hat” right then and there to raise funds to support WNDB’s initiatives. Each person was asked to donate $5; approximately $1,000 was raised that morning, which was supplemented by subsequent donations, including an anonymous donor’s matching contribution. “By Sunday at noon, a Walter Dean Myers Grant [for emerging writers] and three Mentorships [for aspiring writers and illustrators] were funded,” Park told PW.

“SCBWI. WNDB. Two organizations I love and support,” Park wrote on her blog. “It’s like two of my best friends met and fell in love and are now spreading that love far and wide.”And Pearson wrote, “We are still in awe of the spontaneous generosity of our conference attendees.”