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For many people, the holiday season is a time to receive presents. Wide-eyed youngsters map out mile-long wish lists for Santa, filled with toys and other treasures.

Jake Ashby, however, had a different idea.

The 8-year-old decided to write a book in order to help out the American Red Cross.

“It caught me completely off guard,” Jennifer, his mother, said. “I had no idea how to do it, but I knew I wanted to encourage his ideas.”

The four-page book, titled “Thomas Jefferson,” is filled with text and illustrations that expand on lessons Jake learned about the country's third president.

“I just learned about him and he was really interesting, so I wanted to write a book about him,” Jake said.

Donating to the Red Cross, Jake explained, was a way to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated homes across the East Coast. But the cause also hit closer to home, as a way to help his grandmother, who is battling cancer.

“She needs a lot of blood transfusions, and Jake said he wanted a way to help her,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer decided to use social media to spread Jake's message. She scanned the book and shared it on Facebook with family and friends. For every “like” the story received, she would donate 25 cents to Jake's cause.

So far, the story has gotten the thumbs up more than 100 times.

For Jennifer, Jake's book is a reminder that children can be influenced by the actions of adults. As a past volunteer herself, she said she would often feel guilty spending time away from her children to help others.

Now, she realizes that her work continues through Jake and his younger brother, 6-year-old Jonathon.

“Your children really do see the things that you do,” she said. “It's an opportunity to lead by example.”

Next on the Ashby boys' charity list: creating toys and games for hospitalized children.

“They've already started coming up with ideas on how to do this,” Jennifer said. “Again, it's something that I'm not sure how to do and I'll have to think about it for a while, but I'm going to foster it and encourage it.”

Jake's generosity has the potential for creating a new Christmas tradition for the family, Jennifer said. And while the holidays are a great time for it, Jennifer expects the boys' altruism to continue throughout the year.

The biggest lesson, she said, is that her children understand that money isn't the most important thing in life.

“Giving your time and abilities is just as important,” she said. “It just makes my heart smile to know what they can do, all on their own.”