Dino the dinosaur gets his close-up

Sinclair dinosaur calendar proceeds go to American Cancer Society  

by megan hopps

SUN PRESS Newspapers

 

Since 1977, Diana Merkl and her husband Jim have helped customers through Champlin across the Ferry Street Bridge into Anoka. Nestled into the riverbanks, the Merkls recently celebrated 36 years of business at Champlin’s Sinclair Gas Station.

But they’ve had a special friend along the way that stands guard at the station even before the Merkls’ arrival. Dino the dinosaur has been spotted wearing all sorts of garb, mostly to honor people and celebrate holidays.

“I dressed him as a fireman in honor of National Fireman Week and I like to dress him up when Champlin Park is having their Relay for Life,” she said.

Dino has outfits for nearly every occasion and Diana always appreciates new ideas. Here, Dino is dressed as Santa for the holidays complete with his Santa hat, beard and a mailbox to collect letters from all the children on Santa’s nice list. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

Dino has outfits for nearly every occasion and Diana always appreciates new ideas. Here, Dino is dressed as Santa for the holidays complete with his Santa hat, beard and a mailbox to collect letters from all the children on Santa’s nice list. (Sun staff photo by Megan Hopps)

It all started several years ago in the midst of a cold, blustery winter when Diana knitted a scarf for him. Ever since then, Diana says she usually tries to dress Dino twice a month.

“I buy things at garage sales and Good Will,” she said. “When people find out that I dress him they donate things for him. The other day there was a box on my doorstep with all sorts of wigs for Dino inside.”

And Diana says Dino’s things take up a lot of space in her garage.

Dino now has attire for nearly every occasion; a turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving, a snowman during the cold winters, even a mailman’s outfit in remembrance of National Mailmen Week.

“Jim’s dad was in the mail service for 40 years,” Diana said. “So we wanted to do something to honor that.”

And, speaking of mail, Dino actually receives quite a bit of it.

“He gets fan mail,” Diana laughs. “One letter came in yesterday with a check that said ‘for a new coat for Dino.’ People come in and say thank you for all the humor.”

One woman stopped in and told Diana she always looks forward to seeing what Dino’s got on. “It’s become such a fun thing for people,” she said.

This year Diana plans to set out a mailbox next to Dino so children can drop off their holiday wish lists. And Dino will be sure to respond.

Diana didn’t always have the strength or inspiration to dress Dino for the holidays.

Twenty-five years ago, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and said her life was forever changed. After rigorous chemotherapy sessions and surgery to remove the cancerous tissue, she is thrilled to announce that she has since been cancer free.

To honor other families that have been affected by cancer, Diana has created a calendar of Dino and all of his outfits.

“They’ll be sold at the station for $18,” she said. “And all the proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society and Rely for Life.”

Diana watches the hustle and bustle of traffic sweep by the station and is reminded that life’s just too short to sweat the small stuff.

“So now you see why I find the humor in life,” she says. “I just love making people smile.”

 

Contact Megan Hopps at megan.hopps@ecm-inc.com

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