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Former city native writes book about becoming Santa

Saint Nicholas, more commonly known as Santa Claus, is known for the gift of giving. Inspired by the values of St. Nick, what happens to a boy who wants to be just like Santa and realizes children need more than toys? “They need food, clothes and more.” “Maximum Joy,” is a novel written by Rich and Bonnie Vannucci, of Florida.

In 1975, Rich, a native of Williamsport, was a junior at St. John Neumann High School where he began playing Santa Claus and realized himself that people need more than toys. The book takes place and begins in Williamsport — “it is my root, from where I grew,” Rich said. “The book is based on a true story — of my life as Santa.”

“Maximum Joy” is a young adult book geared towards readers ages 10 and older. The novel was the first book Rich has written, he said. The fictional book follows closely to that of Rich and Bonnie Vannucci’s lives, marriage and experiences with charities, according to the book’s website, www.maximum-joy.com.

The story follows the main character, Nic Perugino, a young boy who “dreams of becoming Santa Claus,” said the book’s website. Slipping into the classic red and white suit, Perugino sets out to deliver “food and medicine to the less fortunate.”

The tales of Nic and Rich are intertwined as it follows and is inspired by Rich’s time as Santa Claus. Nic has a revelation — that people can “upgrade the human condition through sharing … resources wisely.” After the main character’s time in India and East Africa, Nic decides to create “a global child relief agency,” says “Maximum Joy.” This, too, is reflective of Rich’s life as he and his wife, Bonnie, are the founders of Operation Serving Children, a non-profit agency. Proceeds from book sales of “Maximum Joy” benefit Operation Serving Children.

In the book, Nic begins to doubt himself in “becoming a genuine Santa Claus.” Nic’s mission to help those in need “begins to falter,” though this begins to turn around in a series of events. Through Nic’s life he is visited by the spirit of jolly ol’ Saint Nicholas and angels who help guide Nic to “understand the true meaning of sharing,” said the website, and giving, not only during the holiday season but year-round.

The novel “Maximum Joy” is closely reminiscent of the lessons Rich himself has learned and his journey through life as he strives to become a real-life Santa Claus himself. Though, what does that mean?

“Joy is found through sharing,” Rich said. “Give the gift of joy.”

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