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Clark: Red kettle fundraiser ends with overtime loss

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, I can’t feel my fingers …”

Strange things can happen to a guy after six hours of singing and playing guitar for the Salvation Army in the winter cold outside a Fred Meyer store.

The brain shuts down. Extremities freeze …

Now I know why frostbitten Sam McGee wanted to be cremated in that famous Robert Service poem.

But in the end, everyone who took part in Saturday’s so-called “friendly” red kettle Ring Off survived to play another day.

As it turns out, however, dodging hypothermia was not the most irritating thing about this money-raising contest between the Gang of Doug vs. Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem and friends.

I’m putting this in the rearview mirror with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth and here’s why:

Submitted for your enlightenment are the Ring Off totals as confirmed by the Salvation Army on Monday morning.

Coeur d’Alene: $4,390.

Spokane: $4,718.

“Even though we lost, we still have to thank you for it,” Christy Markham, the Salvation Army’s development director for the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene, told me over the phone.

How nice.

Markham is the person who originally asked me to fill in as mayor pro tem when Spokane Mayor David Condon passed on the competition for charity and civic bragging rights.

It sounded like a lot of fun.

Plus it was an opportunity for us to make a better showing than last year, when lame duck Mayor Mary Verner raised an equally lame $579 to Bloem’s $4,979.

Had I only known just how bad these Coeur d’Alene Christian soldiers wanted to kick our asses, well, I might’ve opted for tooting my trumpet with the EWU band.

Get a load of the email Markham sent me several hours after delivering her concession speech:

“Well,” she wrote, “we have had a development in the Mayor vs. Mayor Ring Off.”

I’ll say.

Apparently, Markham decided to count a previously uncounted $5,000 mystery check made out to the Salvation Army and dropped in Mayor Bloem’s red kettle and designated for “Disaster Relief.”


After tracking the donor down, Markham explained that she was delighted to find the benefactor willing to “reissue a check” for the mayor’s Ring Off.

Wow. I haven’t seen such retroactive arithmetic since the hanging-chad presidential scandal of 2000.

“All this to say,” concluded Markham, “that Coeur d’Alene will reclaim the title of winner of the Mayor vs. Mayor Ring Off with a grand total of $9,567.57.”

You win, Christy.

I’m sure everything’s on the up-and-up.

I just wish you would have mentioned this check thing a little earlier. You know, so I could have rushed out and sold several gallons of blood or cashed this $1,000,000 check from D. B. Cooper that I’ve been saving.

But despite all the silliness (pettiness?), I couldn’t be prouder of the good hearts and generosity that I encountered Saturday outside the Fred Meyer along Thor Street.

First off, my readers are absolutely the best.

Dozens of them came down and donated 50 bucks to get their copy of “Singin’ the News,” the CD featuring all 14 of the parody songs that my pal Joe Brasch and I have recorded over the years for the newspaper.

Two saints submitted $1,000 donations and not for disaster relief, either.

My teammates were stellar, too.

Randy Shaw, a longtime friend and KREM-TV’s venerable news anchor, not only made an appearance, but sang some Christmas tunes and brought along his whole news gang: Jane McCarty, Tom Sherry and Darnay Tripp.

Musician Sammy Eubanks sang a few cool bluesy holiday songs.

I had a surprise visit from some Salvation Army brass: Capt. Kyle Smith and his sweet wife, Lisa, who is a major and a terrific singer.

Amy Biviano helped out, along with McKenzi Novell, the reigning Miss Spokane.

Several friends from my own annual charity, Spokane Street Music Week, took part, including Daniel Cox, and Kenyon Fields and his talented daughter, Anne.

And what can I say about Brasch?

They say a friend will help you move and a great friend will help you move a body.


Brasch would not only help me move a stiff, but dig the hole, too.

He stuck with me and played guitar for the entire five-plus hours even though he wasn’t dressed for the chill.

Late in the day he got so cold that he wrapped his muffler over and around the top of his head. For a second I thought I was standing next to a poor Soviet peasant woman who had just finished her shift at one of the old Communist collective farms.

Was it worth all the emotional whiplash?

Sure. Times are tough, and anything we can do to help some folks in need is always a winning proposition.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at