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Gold coin donated to Wichita Ronald McDonald House

Much like Santa Claus does each year, an anonymous giver delivered a gold coin to a local charity before vanishing into the night on Monday.

"It's meaningful, it's fun and it's truly like Santa coming," said Susan Smythe, CEO and executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Wichita. "For me it's not just the coin; it's the sentiment, the thought and the unselfish act."

The man, who identifies himself in the accompanying note as ''Secret Santa," wrapped the 1998 American Eagle Gold Coin in a piece of paper and handed it to the house manager at the Ronald McDonald House at 520 N. Rutan around 5 p.m. The note reads in all capital letters: ''God bless us everyone.''

According to the U.S. Mint Web site, the coin is one ounce of 22-karat gold. The $50 face value is symbolic, as the true value is determined by the market price of gold. Smythe said she plans to have the coin appraised.

She said the mystery behind the gift is compounded by the fact that this is not the charity's first anonymous gold coin donation.

She said that three years ago, both Wichita Ronald McDonald houses received gold coins from a stranger.

They received another the following year, and after a year off, it appears that Secret Santa is back, despite the tough economy.

"I don't know if this is the same person," she said.

The Ronald McDonald House charities of Wichita provide families with hospitalized children a place to stay. Smythe said she expects a record year.

"We'll probably see around 1,700 families this year," she said. "That's a lot of folks coming and going."

Smythe said she appreciates those who are still donating to charities like hers, even though many budgets are tight.

"Even with the economy, we are still getting people giving to people," Smythe said. "The smallest check that I've gotten this season was for $1. That's the kind of stuff that really grabs my heart."

Other local charities have received gold coins in recent years, all from anonymous donors. The Guadalupe Clinic and the Lord's Diner received coins this year.

"The bottom line is that people still see that others are in need and they're giving,'' Smythe said.

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