The polar bear triumphed, now onward with the dinosaur
Polar bear. Check. Dinosaur. Ready, and set.
Saturday, the mighty small philanthropists of Pierce County tripled their target and raised $70,000 for year-round Special Olympics programs serving athletes with developmental disabilities.
Now they’re launching a Charlie’s Dinosaur campaign for children going into foster care. They – oh, let’s just say you – are like that.
You see a need and don’t wait until you get rich to fill it. You mine the couch cushions for change. You skip lunch or a latte. You work generosity into your budget.
Sometimes, you invest in a big rubber horse mask and run into Puget Sound if you think it’ll make your friends fork $5 into a fund. It’s amazing how many people will pay up to see a buddy wear a ridiculous costume, then freeze. You’re canny enough to capitalize on that.
For Saturday’s Polar Plunge at Point Defiance, the Owen Beach parking lot leaked cars onto Five Mile Drive. Among the 270 plungers, the 15 “Disaster Divas” from Pierce County Emergency Management in their red and black tulle tutus came bearing gifts: A warming tent each for men and women, plus $1,764 in donations.
The 39 “WasteConnections” jumpers, and event sponsors, hoped to raise $5,000. They brought in $19,296.
Three brave newspaper types from Tacoma Weekly’s “TacomaWeekly Strong” team brought in $565.
It was like that with team after team milling around to rock music, sampling Taco Time chili, hooting for costume contest winners and listening to Pierce County Sheriff’s Detective Ed Troyer get in some righteous gloating. King County, with five years of Polar Plunging, made $125,000 the previous weekend.
Pierce County backers looked at King County’s donation history and hoped to make $20,000. Instead, with one-third the population of King County, they made $70,000 on this first plunge.
The morning was all about over-achieving.
Troyer promised to jump if he raised $1,000. He hit $1,400, which gave Fircrest Police Chief John Cheesman probable cause to push him off the Zodiac carrying the crew sent out to take the water temperature.
It was 45 degrees, and Cheesman, at $1,005, was next to get a taste of it.
“When people like you step in and step up, this community’s quality of life gets better,” Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told the sun-wishing, water-fearing crowd. “You start to have a psychology of abundance rather than a psychology of scarcity. That makes everybody better.”
Notice that he said “everybody,” not “everything.”
Pastor’s talking about the hope and power that come with being part of the rush of goodness.
He might as well have been pointing at the “Charlie’s Dinosaur” team as they splashed by for $2,785.
By Monday morning, they were on to their next act of abundance. Board members Kevin Johnson, Lynelle Anderson, Teresa Berg, Brian Lund and Gary Sanders were sipping coffee at Bates Technical College’s café, planning the Charlie’s Dinosaur Drive for Foster Kids.
The five are Pierce County Sheriff’s detectives assigned to crimes against children. They founded Charlie’s Dinosaur after Josh Powell brought his sons, Charlie and Braden, back to Pierce County after their mother, Susan, disappeared in Utah. The boys were living with their maternal grandparents when, during a court-ordered visit, Josh Powell struck them with hatchets then blew up his rental house killing them and himself.
There’s not much you can do to heal a grief like the family, community and those detectives experienced, but there are ways to deal with it – to forge the pain into power.
“We wanted to feel better and make the best of the worst,” Anderson said.
They wanted to make sure the boys’ names lived on after their father’s was forgotten. They saw the opportunity to help thousands of other abused and neglected children by collecting new clothing, toiletries, books, art supplies backpacks and rolling luggage.
They found their logo as they were going through the boys’ things during the investigation: Charlie had drawn a picture of a happy dinosaur.
“You look at that dinosaur and smile,” Anderson said. “It’s a symbol of the good they brought to this community, the happiness they brought to their family.”
Already, the dinosaur has brought comfort to more than 150 children removed from unfit homes.
It’s an awful time for a child.
“We see us taking them away from abuse. They see us taking them away from the people they love,” Sanders said. “You can’t pick your parents. Do you get a dad who’s a doctor and a mom who stays home and bakes cookies? Or do you get a mom who’s a crack whore and a dad who’s who knows where?”
Sanders has removed kids from homes where they’ve never slept on a mattress. Berg has rescued children who, in deep, wet winter, had no coats.
“There was one girl who had never washed her hair with anything but hand soap,” said Anderson.
There are a few bleak days of temporary care between leaving a bad home and getting into a long-term foster home. Most kids leave with the dirty, ill-fitting clothes they’re wearing, Anderson said. They go into homes where they get hand-me-downs if they’re lucky. They’ll spend hours in court and social services offices. They don’t know what the future looks like, or if anyone will ever care about them.
Enter the dinosaur.
The detectives have stocked a corner of a downtown warehouse with emergency kits for these children. They have closets for toiletries, tables of books and art supplies, and a room for new socks, underwear, pajamas, clothes and coats. They have a room lined with backpacks and suitcases packed, ready and labeled for “Girl, XL,” “Boy, small,” “Boy, teen.”
Everything is new. This is no time for hand-me-downs.
They thought they would be sending out about 100 packs a year when they started collecting supplies. It looks like 10 times that now, Lund said, and the need is growing.
The detectives are inviting us to jump in.
From now into April, they are inviting us to donate to the Charlie’s Dinosaur Drive for Foster Children. They have listened to foster children and built a list of most-needed items. It’s next to this story. They are opening every Sheriff’s substation and the main office in City-County Building for donations. Tacoma Weekly is doing the same at 2588 Pacific Highway, Fife.
Over the next weeks, they’ll have special events and promotions, including pajama parties and dino photo ops that make it easy and fun to give. We’ll keep you updated in the paper and on our website, http://tacomaweekly.com. Dinosaur. Ready, set, go.
Charlie’s Dinosaur’s Most Wanted New Items
Pajamas (no nightgowns or shorties)
Jeans and tops
Underwear and socks
Toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and body wash
Combs and brushes
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