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December 08. 2012 10:37PM

Serious illness sidelines hardworking mother

MANCHESTER - It used to be that Anna, 27, was able to help everyone around her, both financially and emotionally.

From the age of 14, when she started work at a doughnut shop, until this past September, when she was a billing clerk at a local energy company, Anna had worked and been there for her two boys, ages 4 and 7. She had even been able to help pay her mother's bills.

But her world came crashing down Sept. 2, when she developed ulcerative colitis. Now Anna (not her real name) is under doctor's orders not to work. She spends most her days in her duplex in the city's North End worrying about bills as they mount and how she is going to get her boys through this Christmas.

Without any help from their fathers or her extended family, "which is in worse shape than I am," she is unsure there will even be the traditional Christmas ham supper.

"On the way to school in the morning, they ask, 'Can we stop to get a doughnut?' I have to tell them we can't afford a doughnut," she said, adding, "But my boys are amazing.''

They both spent time this fall visiting Anna at the hospital, worrying that she was not going to make it. Although she is home now, Anna is facing the prospect of more surgery in January and more testing.

Zach, her eldest, is 7 and has met his father only twice.

"He says to his friends his dad doesn't want him," she said.

Adam is 4 and visits his father every few weeks, though Anna has full custody. She said it is hard on Zach to see Adam go off while he stays at home alone.

The boys love baseball and enjoy playing in Livingston Park, even in the rain. For Christmas, however, they have asked for an XBox, a Batman Arkham City Game and a Nintendo DS XL.

Zach could use some shoes. He needs sneakers or boots, Size 1, and he wears a Size 8 coat. Adam wears a Size 5 coat and also needs either sneakers or boots, Size 12.

The family could also use a gift certificate for holiday food from Stop & Shop.

What Anna wants more than anything is to just get better so that she can take care of her boys.

"I feel so bad for them," she said.

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The generosity of Santa Fund donors makes it possible for the holidays to still be a joyful time. The Santa Fund makes food, clothing and gifts available during the holiday season, so financially stressed families can put their resources toward paying bills for basic needs.

Santa Fund donations may be made by sending a check to the Union Leader Santa Fund, in care of the New Hampshire Union Leader, P.O. Box 9555, Manchester 03108; or by placing a donation in the Santa Fund box in the lobby of the newspaper, at 100 William Loeb Drive, Manchester, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Donations can also be made online at www.unionleader.com/santafund.

Every effort is made to promptly publish Santa Fund contributions. Donors who wish to see their contributions listed before Christmas are encouraged to submit them as soon as possible. The Union Leader publishes photos of donors of $1,000 or more.

For more information, call Christy DeTrude at 668-4321, ext. 507.

How to donate

Santa Fund donations can be made by completing the online form by clicking "Donate" below or send a check to:

c/o New Hampshire Union Leader
P.O. Box 9555
Manchester, NH 03108

You can also drop off the printed form in our newspaper and a donation in the Santa Fund box at the Union Leader, 100 William Loeb Drive in Manchester from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. We will also have a donation drop box at the Intown Manchester Holiday Market on Thursday, November 29 and every Thursday in December.

Share a holiday greeting

With your donation, the Union Leader will publish a short holiday message in the newspaper. Just write it up exactly as you would have it appear, printing clearly, and mail it along with your donation. If you prefer to donate online, follow the link on the page following the transaction to submit a Christmas message.

For more information, please contact Shannon Sullivan, Union Leader Community Relations Manager, at (603) 206-7833 or ssullivan@unionleader.com

The Union Leader Santa Fund is a community tradition that has supported the Salvation Army for more than 50 years. The Santa Fund was first established at the Post Office Fruit in Manchester after a chance 1959 meeting between the Salvation Army major and the then-editor of the Union Leader.

In its first year, the Santa Fund brought in $1,000 to support the Salvation Armys Christmas effort. Since then, the Santa Fund has raised nearly $6.8 million, thanks to the generosity of the community and local businesses. Santa Fund dollars continue to provide warm clothing, meals and toys during the holidays, as well as support Kids Caf, summer camps and other critical programs throughout the year. Last year's drive brought in over $240,000 thanks to the generosity of local businesses and residents, bringing the lifetime total to nearly $6.8 million.

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