Wisconsin News

A special place for local military families

ONALASKA, Wis. - Two-year-old Wesley Ranis is working on a puzzle in the Onalaska Branch of La Crosse County Public Libraries.

"Uh-oh, we're missing one right here," said Wesley, pointing to a train-shaped hole.

He's missing a puzzle piece.

But it's not as rough as missing Daddy.

"We just talked about sharing and taking turns, and it was Daddy's turn to go over," said Janean Ranis, a mother of five.


When her husband, Tim Ranis, was deployed to Iraq in 2009, she ordered some children's books written for military families to help her kids get through it.

"I actually had to go online and order some so I could explain to my kids what was happening, so they wouldn't feel so alone, like it was only happening to them. But there were other families in America, who their dad or mom were being deployed as well. The more you educate your kids, I think the less scared they are about the unknown," said Ranis.

Now there's a new resource for military families in to do just that. -- the "Supporting Military Kids Korner" at the Onalaska Public Library.

Special books, videos and handouts are nestled into a corner with a soft, colorful chair and a big, fluffy stuffed dog named Nana.

"Nana is the big dog from the Peter Pan story. And Nana's job, if you recall, was to protect the children. And so -- I get a little moved just talking about it -- the idea of this protective dog in that corner for those children is very special," said Karen Kroll, Youth Services Coordinator for La Crosse County Libraries.

"As a mother's heart, it's hard. But it's also an honor to be a military family, and realizing that your husband is leaving to serve our country. And so we try to treat it as something that's also very special," said Ranis.

Now there's a cozy place just for them, to show that the community thinks they are very special too.

The corner was funded by a $750 grant through Wisconsin Public Television, the Wisconsin Library Association and University of Wisconsin-Extension. The library was able to double that money with a donation by a volunteer group called Friends of the Onalaska Library.

The big stuffed dog, Nana, was donated by a frequent library visitor.

There's also a display of books in that corner for families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty. It's kept high on a shelf for a parent to reach.

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