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Grand Forks man calls on fellow Santas to donate pay to charity for children of Air Force members

One Santa Claus impersonator in Grand Forks is calling on his fellow men in red to donate part of their Santa pay to charity. Gary Spicer, 65, has dressed up as Santa for almost 20 years for family, friends, Altru Hospital's children's ward and p...

Gary Spicer
Gary Spicer

One Santa Claus impersonator in Grand Forks is calling on his fellow men in red to donate part of their Santa pay to charity.

Gary Spicer, 65, has dressed up as Santa for almost 20 years for family, friends, Altru Hospital's children's ward and people who ride in his taxi.

Spicer heard that the Grand Forks branch of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls in North Dakota and South Dakota is making blankets for children of parents deployed in the Air Force at bases in Grand Forks, Minot and Ellsworth in Rapid City, S.D.

That gave Spicer the idea to ask other Santas in the Grand Forks area to donate part of their pay, even if it's $10, to help make blankets for the cause.

"Santa brings out the best in people," he said. "Basically, it's because I am a Santa, and being the spirit of Christmas, this would be a good thing for them to contribute to."

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The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls is an organization open to girls ages 11 to 21. The group, which has a Masonic history, teaches leadership, teamwork and service, said Diane LaValley, who is involved with the organization.

"It's really fun to see these girls come in at age 11 and leave the organization as poised women," she said.

Madison Melby, 19, is the grand worthy adviser for the organization's North Dakota/South Dakota chapter. It was her job to pick a service project for Rainbow Girls to participate in across the two states, and she chose Any Soldier, an organization that sends soldiers who are stationed overseas items they may need, whether that's toiletries or a letter.

"I wanted to do something to thank the soldiers," Melby said. "Not many airmen get thank yous, but this program allows us to send thank-you cards or care packages."

The group is focusing on soldiers in the Air Force, which led to the idea of making fleece blankets for the children of parents who are deployed, Melby said.

"I feel like it's more of a comfort item because they have a parent that's overseas," Melby said. "They know that they will have something in remembrance of their parent to give them comfort, to know that someone's thinking of them."

The service project is in its early stages as Melby and her fellow Rainbow Girls raise funds for the project, but they plan to distribute the blankets around April, she said.

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