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CHILDREN GIVE CHECKS TO CHARITIES

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Last Christmas the book, "The Homeless Hibernating Bear" became a hot gift item, spurred by the fact it was written by a group of children, most of whom were homeless.

On Thursday, a dozen of the 43 authors gathered at the State Capitol to give part of their royalties to the Travelers Aid Society and the School with No Name, the on-site homeless shelter school.The book was a project of a Peer Support Alliance, which brought children from the homeless shelter together with a few children from the community for friendship. They decided to write and illustrate a story, which was then published by Gold Leaf Press. The children called themselves "Kids Livin' Life" and are now enjoying approximately $300 each in royalties. Several of the homeless children have since moved on and their share of the proceeds waits for them in a trust account, if they can be located.

Formerly homeless AnnaLena Arthur, one of the founding members of the Peer Support Alliance, presided over presentation of the oversized checks to the two charities, each totaling $2,772.12. Before the book was even printed, the youths had agreed if they made any money they would donate 30 percent to the two agencies and the publisher agreed to match that if there was a profit after costs were met. The checks were presented to Utah First Lady Jacalyn Leavitt on behalf of the two organizations.

Plans are in the works for a movie of the week on the making of the book. The book was the idea of Stephanie Burnett, a volunteer who was attending the University of Utah.

When it was introduced last December, the children's story sold 6,000 of its 7,000-volume press run in 24 hours. The publisher scrambled to produce a second printing and more than 15,000 copies sold by Christmas, said Mitch Pogue, manager of Gold Leaf Press.

"I remember the good times when we were writing the book about the homeless bear," said Curtis Dorsey, a student from Bennion Elementary who had joined the homeless children in the alliance and helped write the book. "We shared things that touched our hearts. I learned a lot. We wrote a lot."

Dorsey said that many people believe homeless folks are bad, nasty or stupid. He's learned that they are not like that at all.

"We've been through a lot now," said Arthur. "I want people to understand about homelessness and the problems we have. Not everyone's bad who's homeless. You don't have to be a certain type to be homeless. Things happen."