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Thursday, November 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Crafty "Candyman" a sweet sight at school where treats are banned

Seattle Times staff reporter

At last spring's Ingraham High School pep assembly, the masked student appeared in a blur of red and blue spandex, the letters "CM" emblazoned on his superhero costume.

Student Council President Reilley Adamson was at the podium.

"All of a sudden, he comes out on one of those Razor scooters and he starts throwing out little fun-size pieces of candy," Adamson recalled.

The crowd was on its feet, cheering.

"The Candyman ran out, threw candy up into the air and then disappeared into a cloud of wrappers," said Ingraham principal Martin Floe.

It was another appearance by Ingraham's mysterious underground candy salesman, a lanky, A- and B-average senior who has been defying the Seattle Public Schools' nutrition and solicitation policies for about a year. The Seattle Times agreed not to identify him, but around Ingraham, most teachers and administrators have looked the other way, anyway. Some buy from him.

After the district in 2005 implemented its policy banning junk food and sodas, school vending machines became a wasteland of granola bars, bottled water and baked chips.

The Candyman saw an opportunity.

"Just like prohibition in the '20s, when demand is high and supply is cut off, there are going to emerge black, parallel markets," he said. "High-schoolers need candy, especially in the morning."

His price: a modest 50 cents. He drafts PowerPoint ads and slips them into the dollar slot of vending machines. He writes orders on his hand and makes deliveries during breaks, usually stashing candy bars in his pockets, Nerds ropes up his sleeves.

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He runs his operation out of a locker near the school commons and says he donates all profits to charity. Last year, he gave $50 to Hurricane Katrina relief and $100 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Currently he's holding a contest among the grade levels: Whichever class buys the most candy this quarter will reap his profits — more than $200.

In addition to barring unhealthy snacks, district policy prohibits students from selling things on campus, even if they donate the money to a good cause, said Shannon McMinimee, an attorney for the district.

The district takes both policies seriously, but discipline "is a building-based decision," she said.

Floe said, "The way I look at it is, a student raising money and donating it to breast-cancer research isn't one of my top 10 problems.

"I've got bigger fish to fry. ... Does he have my permission? Not necessarily."

The Candyman said he was once mistaken for a drug dealer by a teacher who overheard him make a deal with another student for "100 Grand" — the Nestlé candy bar featuring caramel and crunchy milk chocolate. The teacher thought he said "100 grams."

Then there was the time he almost got busted. A staff member spotted him selling to a crowd gathered around his locker last year. Appalled, she delivered a lecture on good nutrition, then sent him to the principal's office.

When the door closed, Floe looked across his desk.

"Look, I know you're the Candyman," he said. "Do you think you could get me some Almond Joys?"

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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