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How this Christmas for Kids 'Elf' made Tim Hortons patrons smile

Company confirms 19,218 cookies were sold at four Innisfil locations during holiday Smile Cookie campaign, raising $28,827 for local charity
Richard Ratte, 79, spent several days during the holiday Smile Cookie campaign making the pitch to Tim Hortons customers to support Christmas for Kids.

Pointy ears? Check. Red and green apparel? Check. A vast knowledge of Christmas for Kids (C4Kids)? That goes without saying.

You may recognize Richard Ratte, the pleasant and spectacled 79-year-old Alcona resident who likely approached your car while you waited in line at either the Commerce Park Drive or Innisfil Beach Road (IBR) Tim Hortons drive-thru locations during the week of the holiday Smile Cookie campaign. Holding signs as he walked, he’d look through your window and wait for you to roll it down, before making a short pitch about the importance of buying a sweet, smiling treat, and how it’d benefit C4Kids.

“When you think about Tim Hortons putting on something like this … it’s just amazing,” he said while sitting in the IBR Tims, between sips from a coffee that had the words ‘Thank you’ written in black ink on the lid. “The more we could have our people standing with a sign explaining, the more it supports the cause. That got me thinking about coming out with a sign. Then it was suggested I dress up like Elf.”

He got that coffee for free. They refuse his money as repayment for the good deed.

The most difficult part of the fundraising task, said the C4Kids board member, was figuring out how to consistently engage with drivers, and what key information he needed to relay in the short period they waited in line. 

“You have to think about how you’re going to present yourself so people at least roll down their window,” he said. “The reception was just awesome. They were accepting the message. People reacted so positively. Many bought a whole dozen. The spotlight should be on all those people who rolled down their windows and bought a cookie.”

Clearly, customers were willing to fork out their dough, even when locations ran out of sugar cookies and had to substitute orders for the chocolate chip variety.

When contacted by InnisfilToday, the Tim Hortons media-relations team confirmed Nov. 24 that 19,218 cookies were sold at a total of four Innisfil locations, resulting in $28,827 raised for C4Kids. 

The organization has gone from serving 12 families during its first holiday season in operation in 1996 to what will likely be more than 250 this December. In fact, the number of families receiving assistance has doubled in the last four years alone.

Nearly 800 children are expected to get support through C4Kids this holiday season.

C4Kids recently launched its annual holiday toy drive. Residents are encouraged to donate new, unwrapped toys, non-perishable food items, and gift cards at locations throughout town by Dec. 15. As well, in an effort to provide more options to donors, C4Kids has expanded its Angel and Amazon wish list programs.

Ratte said he started volunteering with the organization shortly after moving to the municipality in 2008. At first, he offered his truck for pick-ups and deliveries, but was compelled to do more after seeing how hard longtime board members worked, as well as the generosity of the business community.

“It just became easy to want to help,” he said. “Individuals have dedicated themselves over the years.”

C4Kids is a registered charity incorporated in 2012. Donations made now stay within the community and surplus is kept in inventory to support the organization’s other year-round initiatives.

Ratte will serve as marshal in Sunday’s Innisfil Santa Claus Parade. He’s thinking about showing up in costume again. And he hopes the holiday cookie campaign returns next year and supports the same local cause.

“We need the money,” he said.

C4Kids is also accepting monetary donations at

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Chris Simon

About the Author: Chris Simon

Chris Simon is an award-winning journalist who has written for publications throughout Simcoe County and York Region. He is the current Editor of BradfordToday and InnisfilToday and has about two decades of experience in the sector
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