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Author Mark Hayward gets Marianna Garcia Kula to autograph his copy of "The Christmas Coin." The book was illustrated by some of the children in the youth programs at The Salvation Army, including Garcia Kula. It will be sold during the holiday season and proceeds benefit the Union Leader Santa Fund for The Salvation Army. (Bruce Preston / Union Leader)

Reporter's book shows the Christmas spirit, benefits the Santa Fund


MANCHESTER -- Christmas is about the family, friends and fun around you, not the material worth you may have clenched in your fist.

This is the theme behind "The Christmas Coin," a children's book penned by veteran New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Mark Hayward with illustrations by children from the Salvation Army's youth programs.
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In the book, a boy named Luke is given a dollar coin by his uncle. The boy cherishes the coin so much that he becomes overprotective of it and won't let go, keeping it balled in his hand to the point where he won't play football with his friends, shake hands with Santa Claus, hold hands with his sister, Lilly, or join in a fun snowball fight. As the story progresses, Luke becomes more and more agitated with those around him, all of whom can't understand why Luke is in such a foul mood.
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Finally, realizing how miserable the coin is making him and everyone around him, Luke drops the coin into a Salvation Army donation bucket.

"The message is, 'Don't let money ruin your Christmas,'" Hayward said. "In the end, the boy realizes he's losing his Christmas. It's his obsession with the coin that's ruining Christmas. And what better way to get rid of it than to give it to the Salvation Army?"
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All funds raised by selling the book will benefit the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army, which makes food, clothing and gifts available during the holiday season, so financially stressed families can put their resources toward paying bills for basic needs. Hayward is accepting no fee for the book, which he said he wrote about a decade ago after a real-life event involving his son, for whom the story's protagonist is named.
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He said Luke, now 15, had received a quarter "and just wanted to hold onto it.

"I wondered, 'What if he never let go of it?' And it all came together. Then I thought, 'What if it happened on Christmas?'" Hayward said.
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Hayward copyrighted the book, but was unsuccessful trying to get it published, so he shelved it until he approached Shannon Sullivan, community relations manager for the Union Leader, about publishing it to benefit the Santa Fund.
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"I'm lucky to work at the Union Leader, where I was able to work with people on a project like this and get it published," Hayward said.

For her part, Sullivan said she was happy to help make the project a reality.
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"Over the summer, Mark told me that he had written a Christmas story, and at some point in our initial conversations, the idea of using it to raise money for the Santa Fund came up," she said. "We had a great time working on it and watching it come together."
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The Union Leader Santa Fund is an annual fund-raising campaign to raise money for the Salvation Army. Last year's effort raised more than $216,000, thanks to the generosity of local businesses and individuals, bringing the lifetime total to more than $7.1 million, Sullivan said.
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All money raised by the Santa Fund goes directly to the Salvation Army to help families by providing toys, warm clothing and meals during the holidays. The Santa Fund also supports Salvation Army programs throughout the year.
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Copies of "The Christmas Coin" are available for $10 each. They can be purchased at the Salvation Army, the New Hampshire Union Leader, Merchants Automotive or online at goshopnh.com.
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