Greatest (bell ringer) Of All Time: A goat in a Santa hat will raise money for Salvation Army (VIDEO)


Ever see a goat wearing a hat?

How about a goat wearing a Santa hat, matching suit, while ringing a bell and helping raise money for one of the largest non-profit charities in the U.S.?

Here’s your chance during this Saturday’s Salvation Army red-kettle fundraising effort.

The traditional animal for the Christmas season tends to be the reindeer. The only thing this goat from Dracut is missing is the glowing red schnoz. (Well, that and the ability to fly.)

The goat’s name is Madeline. She’ll be at the Market Basket on Bridge Street in Lowell, standing outside with Rick LaFontaine and Dracut police Lt. Peter Pappas, a veteran Salvation Army bell ringer.

“Maybe we can get a lot of people to come down and help out,” Pappas said. “Tis the season.”

Pappas calls LaFontaine “the animal whisperer.” It’s more like “the goat whisperer.”

When LaFontaine walks away from Madeline, she watches him closely, softly bleating out when he’s out of her sight. They’ve become good friends over the short period LaFontaine has had her.

Castoff animals have a tendency to end up at LaFontaine’s home on Marsh Hill Road.

“It’s like the orphanage for animals around here,” he said while standing on his porch Wednesday with Pappas, and of course, Madeline.

The jovial animal prances about LaFontaine’s porch, attempting to snatch a piece of paper out of Pappas’ hands.

“They eat everything,” the police lieutenant said. “Everything.”

It can be a cold world, but not for this goat.

Back in August, Madeline showed up at his doorstep. She was the runt of the litter. She had a sibling who died shortly after birth, and her other siblings were on a similar path, as they were going to be used for their meat, LaFontaine said.

Now 8 months old Madeline, the goat of Marsh Hill Road, is all grown up and living the life.

Madeline has a tendency to grab attention when going for walks down the road or when she sticks her head out the window on car rides. She plays with neighborhood children as well as her brother-of-another-species Gary — a coon dog who LaFontaine also adopted.

“She’ll be doing parties soon,” Pappas said.

LaFontaine and Pappas decided to start Madeline with charity work instead.

The idea to use the unusually social goat to raise money during the red-kettle fundraising effort came after Pappas ran into a similar story on TV.

“I said ‘Rick, let’s dress up Madeline and bring her down there to see if we can draw some attention,'” said Pappas, who has volunteered as a bell ringer for 3 years.

“We want to stuff that kettle,” he added.

He called up a manager at Market Basket and made it known that a goat was coming down Saturday to help fund raise in front of the grocery store.

“He said, ‘You got a what coming down?'” Pappas chuckled. “He thought it was funny.”

Madeline will be sporting a Santa outfit that fits like it was crafted just for her, which a portion of it was, LaFontaine points out. Custom-cut holes in her Santa hat, clearly measured with precision, allow Madeline’s horns to poke out.

When they first put the outfit on her, she attempted to eat it off her body. It was a habit they were able to snap, though she nibbled at her outfit Wednesday, losing interest when Wheat Thins — a goat favorite, it would seem — were brought to her attention by LaFontaine.

Using Madeline for the charity effort comes at a key time.

Last week it was revealed that red-kettle fundraising in Lowell was down 30 percent compared to this time last year. Officials sounded the alarm last on the immediate need for volunteers.

Pappas points out the importance of the nonprofit, listing its functions, that include helping the poor, destitute and the hungry, as well as providing shelter, food and clothing to the homeless.

From a dime kicking around someone’s pocket to a $20 bill and more, whatever amount placed in the red kettle serves a tremendous purpose, Pappas said.

“Given all the bad happening in our world today, it is very rewarding to know that you truly helped a fellow human being who can’t help themselves,” Pappas said. “If they had the means of thanking you personally, I’m sure they would.”

And for those on the fence about going to Market Basket on Saturday — this could be your last chance to see a goat dressed like Santa.

“She could be ringing the bell,” LaFontaine added. “She’s working on it but we have to have a few more practice sessions.”

Madeline, LaFontaine and Pappas will be at Market Basket, at 1201 Bridge St., Lowell from 9-11 a.m. Saturday.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis