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Royal Family, hospitals to be sent local children's book

CARSTAIRS - A children’s book produced by the collaboration of an Airdrie illustrator, a Carstairs publisher and musical act The Wardens may soon be in the hands of the Royal Family.

CARSTAIRS - A children’s book produced by the collaboration of an Airdrie illustrator, a Carstairs publisher and musical act The Wardens may soon be in the hands of the Royal Family.

“We were working on our Rocky Mountain Rangers book at the same time as Meghan Markle (Duchess of Sussex) was pregnant with baby Archie (Mountbatten-Windsor),” said Ayesha Clough, publisher with Red Barn Books in Carstairs. “Because of Markle’s connection with Canada, I thought it would be so nice to send him a copy.”

Clough noted Markle lived in Toronto while filming the television show Suits, and said she always planned to send a copy of Rocky Mountain Rangers: Guardians of the Wild to the Royal Family. After some reflection, however, she decided she wanted to take the occasion to also get copies of the book to kids closer to home.

“I thought, ‘Well, (Archie) gets gifts, I’m sure, all the time. What about kids right here in Canada who could use a gift of something special to brighten up their day?’” she said. “I thought about all my friends with kids in the hospital, and all the painful treatments they endure, and the number of visits they have to make to hospitals.”

Clough created a Kickstarter campaign for the book drive and, according to her, 23 people donated $120 each for 10 copies of the book to be delivered to a children’s hospital of their choice. In total, 230 copies of the book will be donated to hospitals from Victoria to Halifax to Inuvik.

The book takes its inspiration from a song written by The Wardens, a musical group comprising three former national park wardens.

Bradley Bischoff, one of the trio’s singer-songwriters, said the entire group is proud their story might brighten the day of hospitalized children.

“To have it in children’s hospitals across the country – that’s something that means a lot to us,” he said. “Sick kids spend a lot of time convalescing, and a lot of time to themselves. To have something there, like our Rocky Mountain Rangers book, would help them fill up their day and, hopefully, put a smile on their face and try to make the best of a challenging experience for them.”

Lia Golemba, the Airdrie illustrator who produced the art for the book, said she is equally proud to have been a part of the collaboration now that it is making its way to Canadian hospitals and to the U.K.

“As a mother of two boys myself, I’m really excited to see other kids be able to share in the joy of this book,” Golemba said. “It’s nice to have it touch so many people and so many lives. For it to go to the Royal Family is kind of the cherry on top.”

The collaborators have designed a special hardcover “Royal Edition” of the book for Archie, Clough said. Airdrie calligrapher BerylAnne Hodgins is the latest collaborator to take part in the project, inscribing the names of the 23 donors and a special message for Archie in the book. Hodgins said she hand-wrote the message and names on a high-quality paper with a gold deckle edge along the bottom, and added foil embellishment on the letters. The “pièce de résistance,” she added, is hand-drawn maple leaves bordering the outer edges of the two pages.

Hodgins said she was honoured to be invited to join the project.

“It’s not every day you get an opportunity to do something for the Royal Family,” she said. “I thought this would make me bring my A game (and) would cause me to think outside the box and do something that I wasn’t necessarily used to doing.”

Clough said she has not corresponded with anyone associated with the Royal Family, but plans to simply ship the book to Clarence House. She hopes for some kind of acknowledgment of the gift – if Markle were to personally acknowledge the book, Clough said she’d “die and go to heaven” – but more than anything, she’s happy to spread a little happiness across Canada.

“This special edition for baby Archie, as nice as that is, it’s more meaningful to us that there’s going to be these hundreds of kids right here in Canada who get something special,” Clough said.

“If we can even brighten up their day or their parents' day, that’s really what we’re after here.”

Meanwhile, Golemba, Clough and The Wardens are in the early stages of the next Rocky Mountain Ranger, selecting which song will be translated to the page.