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Cd'A artist, car dealership give back by building sweet treat for kids | Arts & Culture

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Cd'A artist, car dealership give back by building sweet treat for kids
Cd'A artist, car dealership give back by building sweet treat for kids

 

Facing a debilitating disease and a Christmas season with three kids – including a newborn – a Coeur d'Alene artist did something extremely rare: He decided to focus on helping others.

Jason Sanchez had the idea to help Children's Village in Coeur d'Alene this Christmas because he knew he "had to do something out of the goodness out of the heart." So he contacted the charity and told them he had a plan to help by building a gingerbread replica to raise donations.

"My first reaction was to burst out laughing," Janie Givas, development director for Children's Village, said. "People have grand ideas all the time, until they realize what it will take to actually complete the project."

But when Sanchez came in with "a beautiful board already drawn of this great gingerbread house I knew he was for real," Givas said.

Sanchez had spoken with Sarah Colbert of Tom Addis Lake City Ford, who OK'd funding – about $500 – the project, and he was all set to start creating.

"My motto is: Put something in the world that hasn't been there before," Sanchez said. "I always want to do something positive that's fun to look at and not a bunch of metal just put together that doesn't mean anything."

The last obstacle for the project was finding a place to house the artwork. Sanchez originally tried the Coeur d'Alene Resort, but they had already had their Christmas decorations set and couldn't accommodate it. So, he turned to friend Christy Markham, the development director for the Ray and Joan Kroc Center, who approved allotting some space for the replica.

"We were just the place where 2,500 people come through our doors every day," Markham said. "We were blessed with a beautiful building and opportunity to help another nonprofit that we had to make the most of."

The giant gingerbread car lot stands near the entrance to the center and is a big attraction to the kids who pass through the center, for reasons Sanchez says are intentional.

Since the artwork was created for the benefit of children, Sanchez wanted to make the piece kid-friendly: "What kid doesn't love Hot Wheels, gingerbread and candy?"

Sanchez enlisted in the Army in 2001, but during a routine training exercise shortly before 9/11 in Fort Knox, Ky., he collapsed and woke up three days later in the hospital. He was told that he had McArdle's Disease, a degenerative muscle disorder and in just a week he went from 235 pounds to 180. Despite his misfortune, Sanchez maintains a refreshingly generous outlook.

"A lot of disabled vets get so much, I thought it was time to give something back," he said.

After leaving the military, Sanchez focused on his art. He currently has a proposal in with the city of Coeur d'Alene for a sculpture to be placed at 4th and Kathleen that he would call "Coeur d'Copia." It would honor the region and the people who live there "who are always looking out for each other." Sanchez said he expects 60 to 80 other artists submitted proposals. 

Sanchez also said he already has a plan for next Christmas to help a local charity. He said he wants to build a 10 foot gingerbread replica of the resort downtown, where kids could donate through the windows of the sweet hotel.

When asked if he had a goal for how much the gingerbread display could raise this year, he said he was hoping for $5,000.

"But if it made $100, that's $100 of school supplies for those kids next year, that's at least a new pair of shoes."

The display will be taken down at the New Year, when Children's Village will count how much money was donated.

"(Sanchez) is unique, because he is truly driven by his desire to do something for others despite his family struggling," Givas said. "It's not very often when people look at a situation and think, 'how are we going to dig out of this hole? Let's do something for someone else.' That was the most touching piece for me and it was because it was genuine."

UPDATE: Janie Givas of Children's Village said the display raised about $200 for operational costs.

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