Len Gengel is signing copies of his book to benefit poor children in Haiti. The same ones his daughter wanted so badly to help.
Photo: Britney Gengel/Gengel Family
This was perhaps one of the toughest interviews I've ever had to undertake. Len Gengel holds himself up so professionally and seems to be in good spirits despite just passing the 3rd anniversary of his daughter's passing.
19 year old Britney Gengel was one of four students and two staff members from Boca Raton's Lynn University to perish in the 2010 earthquake. She and the others were in the island nation on a goodwill mission trip when the quake struck, destroying the Hotel Montana, where they were staying.
Len tells me that 3 hours before the earthquake, Britney had texted her mother's cell phone the following message:
"They love us so much and everyone is so happy. They love what they have and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself."
Britney Gengel, January 12, 2010
He says they have saved the message on the phone that no longer gets used, then transcribed all of the texts from Britney during the trip and saved them on a computer. He admits to reading them from time to time. The above text appears on the signature line of all of Len's emails.
He talks about the Be Like Brit Orphanage:
"The building is designed for 33 boys and 33 girls, symbolic of the 33 days Brit was missing in the rubble of the Hotel Montana. We now have 9 little children living in Brit's orphanage."
Len also tells us how he basically lost his daughter twice in 48 hours.
"36 hours after the earthquake, Lynn University called and said 'We have your daughter on a helicopter heading to the airport. You'll have your daughter in your arms at 11pm. We got there. They had bad intelligence."
The Be Like Brit Orphanage was dedicated on January 5, 2013. It made for one of 39 visits to Haiti that Len and his wife, Cherylann Gengel, have made over the past two years.
Len and Cherylann will be signing copies of their book in the area.
"Heartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story" is about the heartache of losing a child. You know, it's every parent's worst nightmare to lose a child but in our case we lost our daughter twice in 48 hours, which is just unfathomable."
In Britney's memory, her family started a non-profit, the Be Like Brit organization aimed at serving the children of Haiti. Click Here for more on the non-profit, the book and everything Brit-related. FYI 100% of the proceeds from the book go to Be Like Brit. As Len told me, "Nobody's benefitting (financially) from this book."
Information about book signings:
Books and Books in Coral Gables, Sunday Feb. 17th - 4pm to 6pm
Vero Beach Book Center in Vero Beach, Monday Feb. 18th - 6pm to 8pm.