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Not-so-secret Santa

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | December 17, 2020 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Ann Thomas is chairman of the board of the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce. Rick Rasmussen is chair-elect. In their day jobs, they are leaders in the business and health communities.

Both went undercover on a 35-degree Wednesday night outside Super 1 Foods — as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus — to raise money for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle program.

Between their masks, their red and white outfits and their white wigs, their identities were safe. Even Rasmussen’s own father-law, Daryl DeMills, didn’t recognize him as he walked into the store on Kathleen Avenue and U.S. 95. and did a double-take when Rick called to him.

It was all in the spirit of helping those in need this Christmas — and trying to win a fundraising competition with the Hayden and Post Falls chambers.

“We’re doing great,” Rasmussen said. “These people have been really, really generous. I can’t believe, during this COVID, I thought it would be down, but the money is coming in phenomenally.”

Thomas agreed.

“People are very generous,” she said. “And it’s very heart-warming.”

Thomas and Rasmussen greeted customers with good cheer and most often a joyful, “Merry Christmas” as they rang bells to attract attention to their Red Kettle.

People came, with one woman donating both coming and going.

“Thank you, sir,” said one man as he placed dollar bills in the kettle.

“All I want to do is win the lottery tonight,” another man said as he passed by.

While Rasmussen and Thomas were pleased donations were plentiful, they were equally delighted with playing the colorful characters from the North Pole — because of the kids.

Children looking a bit bored as they walked into Super 1 with parents lit up when they saw Santa and Mrs. Claus, who asked what they would like for Christmas.

Kids were more than happy to let them know what they were hoping for come Dec. 25.

“If I can make one kid smile, I’m loving it,” said Rasmussen, who has played Santa before at schools and clubs.

“It’s such a blast,” added Thomas, playing Mrs. Claus for the first time. “It’s so fun.”

She noted that one little girl was especially thrilled to see them.

“You could see her whole face light up,” Thomas said.

The Rescue Christmas Red Kettle campaign goes through Christmas Eve. The goal is $190,000.

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BILL BULEY/Press

Rick Rasmussen, playing Santa Claus, and Ann Thomas, playing Mrs. Claus, greet customers outside Super 1 in Coeur d'Alene Wednesday night.

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BILL BULEY/Press

Rick Rasmussen, playing Santa Claus, and Ann Thomas, playing Mrs. Claus, wait to greet customers outside Super 1 in Coeur d'Alene Wednesday night.