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Holiday helpers

Twelve-year-old Claire Merti, of Uniontown, is feeling as happy as the snowman on her greeting card whose smile stretches across the entire width of his round face.

Not only did the 7th grader at Laurel Highlands Middle School design a winning card for the third year in a row in the annual contest sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia, but she also has won her battle with leukemia, an accomplishment of which her mother is extremely proud.

“She’s a determined little girl, and she’s doing really well,” says Claire’s mother, Robin Merti. “She came through her illness and has been off chemotherapy treatments a year in July.” She says they still make trips to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh every two months for her maintenance program. “But that’s a big difference from three times a week,” Merti says.

Leigh Weightman, 18, of North Huntingdon, also is a winner in this year’s Make-a-Wish card contest. She drew her Christmas tree design earlier this year while she was a patient for three months in Children’s Hospital with a form of leukemia.

“It was so boring in there. There was nothing to do,” says Leigh, who graduated from Norwin High School in May, but whose illness kept her from attending her commencement ceremony. She also hasn’t been able to spend her shopping spree “wish” granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation — but she’s looking forward to it.

“I’m definitely getting a laptop,” she says.

Stories of hope like those of Claire and Leigh are an inspiration for the nonprofit organizations that offer holiday cards and gifts as fundraisers this time of year.

In the case of Baldwin artist Jess Hager, his compassion for a former co-worker whose daughter died of lupus at age 28 led him to offer to design cards for the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania that depict familiar scenes of Pittsburgh. This year’s effort is a view of the Landmarks Building and Grand Concourse restaurant in Station Square, which is where the headquarters of the Lupus Foundation is located.

“I thought (the restaurant building) would make a beautiful card. Everyone goes there,” says Hager. He says his artistic talent “is God’s work,” and his efforts are worthwhile “if I can help to save someone with lupus.” His cards sell for $16.50 for a box of 20, and the foundation has sold as many as 40,000 boxes a year.

The American Cancer Society’s Western Region also has a scenic Pittsburgh card for sale this season, created by artist Linda Barnicott of Green Tree. This is the eighth year that Barnicott has supported the holiday card promotion with her artwork. Her 2005 card, titled “Pittsburgh’s New Horizon,” is a winter scene depicting the view of Downtown from the West End’s Elliot Overlook.

Over the past seven years, the Cancer Society has earned a half-million dollars from sales of her card designs. Proceeds benefit cancer education, research and prevention.

“They print 60,000 a year and they sell out,” she says. “So many people enjoy them. It’s been a real blessing for me.”

The American Cancer Society, Washington County Unit, is selling its own card, designed by Washington artist James M. Sulkowski. His card, “Washington Holiday,” is a nostalgic depiction of Washington’s business district during the holidays.

Operation Santa Claus, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is offering holiday cards and calendars that feature drawings by local artist Susan Castriota Hamilton. Included in the collection are pen-and-ink drawings of the incline and fireworks over the Point, the Allegheny County and Westmorelad courthouses and Radio City Music Hall. The 22-year-old Operation Santa Claus benefits local needy families who will receive the makings for a complete holiday dinner.

Eat ‘n Park restaurants hope to raise $300,000 this year for children’s hospitals and charities in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio in their Caring for Kids Campaign, according to Deb Malley, community marketing director.

They aren’t selling cards, but rather key chains, backpack tags or magnets — all featuring the company’s cookie mascot, Smiley — for a $2 donation. Raffles for two 2006 Mercury Milans donated by the Pittsburgh Lincoln Mercury Dealers Association are part of the holiday fundraising effort, Malley says.

Some organizations are looking to the Internet to sell their cards and gifts. Such is the case with the American Heart Association, The Alzheimer’s Association and seven other local groups that have outsourced their holiday card campaigns through an online charity program run by www.einvite.com .

Joanne Laipson, director of alliance and business development for einvite.com, based in West Boylston, Mass., says the online vendor of invitations and stationary has partnered with a fundraising company, Cards with a Heart, to offer greeting cards that are competitively priced and earn 40 percent profit for the charity of choice.

“Our program is really unique,” she says. “We create a Web site and do all the ordering process. All the charities have to do is market their cards.”

Here’s how to purchase holiday cards and gifts from participating nonprofit organizations:

American Cancer Society Linda Barnicott’s artwork is featured on the organization’s holiday cards for the eighth consecutive year. Her work, “Pittsburgh’s New Horizon,” is available in boxes of 25 cards for $23 each for one to three boxes; $21 each for four to nine boxes; $20 each for 10 or more boxes. James M. Sulkowski offers “Washington Holiday,” being sold by the American Cancer Society, Washington County Unit. A limited number of 18-by-24-inch prints are available for $95. Cards are $18 for a box of 25. Card imprinting is available.

Details: 888-227-5445 or American Cancer Society Western Region office, 320 Billmar Drive, Kennedy Township.

American Diabetes Association : A new catalog for the 2005 holiday season is available online. Items available from a new Gift of Hope catalog include holiday and all-occasion cards, gift items and ornaments. Card prices range from $9.99 to $26.99 per box.

Details: 800-232-6733 or store.diabetes.org .

Eat ‘n Park : Raffles for two Mercury Milans are part of the holiday fundraising effort. Also, the local restaurants offer special Smiley merchandise, including key chains, backpack tags and magnets for a $2 donation. Proceeds benefit the Caring for Kids Campaign.

Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association : Boxed holiday cards in sets of 25 including nine different designs are available at www.einvite.com . Prices are $37.50 per set of 25. Personalized cards also are available at the web site for an additional cost. Photo cards and cards for the Jewish New Year also are available. Einvite.com will make a donation of 40 percent of the cost of the cards to the Alzheimer’s Association. An order form also may be downloaded at www.alzpa.org, the Web site for the local chapter office located in The Landmarks Building, Suite 500, Station Square.

Details: 888-346-8483.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society : Custom apparel offered at the society’s e-Store beginning Dec. 1.

Details: www.leukemia-lymphoma.org

Lupus Foundation : The Landmarks Building at Station Square is featured on a card by Jess Hager, titled “Holiday at the Grand Concourse.” Note cards also are available. Cards are available at the Lupus Foundation office in Station Square. Proceeds will be used to fund research and provide awareness, education and patient services. A minimum contribution of $16 per box of 20 holiday cards is requested. Card imprinting is available.

Details: 412-261-5886 or www.lupuspa.org .

Little Sisters of the Poor : Sister Martha Lieb has designed two religious cards featuring hand-sketched pencil drawings of Mary and baby Jesus, and the Nativity. Holiday cards are being sold for $2 each in any quantity plus

cost of postage for mail orders. Proceeds go toward care of the needy aged. Details: 412-307-1268 or littlesistersofthepoor-pittsburgh.org .

Make-A-Wish Foundation : Cards are available for $10, plus shipping and handling, for a package of 15. The cards can be shipped or picked up at the local Make-A-Wish Foundation office on the fourth floor of the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown. Cards also will be available at area Fireplace and Patioplace locations. Beginning Dec. 12, cards will be sold during the Foundation’s Light Up a Child’s Life radio campaign with WISH (99.7 FM) at remote broadcast locations in Monroeville Mall, The Mall at Robinson and Fifth Avenue Place, Downtown.

Details: 412-471-9474.

Operation Santa Claus: Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, holiday cards and calendars feature drawings by local artist Susan Castriota Hamilton. Included in the collection are pen-and-ink drawings of the incline and fireworks over the Point, the Allegheny County and Westmorelad courthouses and Radio City Music Hall. The 22-year-old Operation Santa Claus benefits local needy families who will receive the makings for a complete holiday dinner. A pack of 10 cards of one design is $10. The 2006 calendar is $10. Send your request, along with check made out to Operation Santa Claus, to Holiday Cards/Calendar, Attention Diana Webb, Tribune-Review, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

Details: 724-838-5199.

The Seeing Eye : An organization that trains dogs to assist those who are blind has a 2005 online holiday gift collection that includes a mug ($15), puppy T-shirt ($15) and pen ($5). The 2005 Seeing Eye holiday card features a color photo of a golden retriever and a yellow Labrador retriever flanking a German shepherd wearing a red ribbon. Cards are available with envelopes in boxes of 20 for $20.

Details: 973-539-4425 or www.seeingeye.org .


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