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Children's book author appears at coat distribution, will donate portion of proceeds to Operation Warm

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 5:45 p.m.
Louis B.Ruediger | Leader Times
Pittsburgh children's books author, Leigh Ann Hrutkay, watches as Emmaline Domiano, 3, of Leechburg, tries on her new coat provided through the Operation Warm program, Tuesday, January 21, 2014. Hrutkay is donating proceeds from her newly published book to Operation Warm.

While Kailey Bowser, 3, of Ford City tried on her new purple coat on Tuesday at the Community Action Agency in East Franklin, temperatures were beginning to plummet outside as another arctic blast moved across the region.

“It fits me,” she said, smiling at her mother.

Brightly colored coats in a range of children's sizes were stacked in rows along tables behind Kailey.

She, along with 90 other children enrolled in Armstrong County's Head Start program, received new coats through a collaboration of the Operation Warm nonprofit organization and EQT Corporation.

Emmaline Domiano, 3, of Leechburg, selected a crayon and sat across from Pittsburgh children's picture book author Leigh Ann Hrutkay to draw a picture of herself wearing her new pale pink coat.

Hrutkay is donating a portion of the proceeds from her newly published book, “Rise and Shine, Little Child,” to Operation Warm.

Her inspiration for the book arrived during a snowy October night while her son, Xander, was sleeping. Xander was only 16 months old and Hrutkay said she couldn't wait to share the magical experience of being outside in the snow with her son.

“I sat up and wrote the book that night,” she said.

The book's cover shows a bundled-up child pulling a sled with a cat in it and a dog running alongside in the snow. She said just weeks after submitting the manuscript, editors at Tate Publishing told her it was “a real heart warmer.”

“I wanted it to benefit something good,” she said. “I found Operation Warm online and it fit with the theme of my book.”

EQT Corporation, a natural gas company in Pittsburgh, has been supporting Operation Warm for the past five or six years, the company's Community Relations Manager Ellen Donley said.

“It's great to see the smiles on the kids' faces when we give them the coats,” Donley said.

Operation Warm has been providing coats nationwide to children in need since 1998.

“We're very thankful and appreciative of the donation of a new coat,” Mary Weyer, of Valley, said.

Her 4-year-old son, Joshua, chose a puffy dark blue coat.

“Thank you,” he said, after trying it on and receiving a cookie on his way out the door.

Winter weather prevented some families from getting to the Community Action Agency building to pick up their coats, Head Start Director Carol Bowser said. Teachers will bring them to students who were unable to attend Tuesday's coat distribution.

The Armstrong County Community Action Agency Head Start program provides services to 212 children and their families. It is a federal program promoting school readiness for children age 3 through 5. There are Head Start classrooms in Apollo, Dayton, Ford City and Rural Valley.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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