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Where’s Leo?

Search is on for fundraising dinosaur

(Published November 15, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

Missing: one baby triceratops.

He’s only seven months old, but he’s over 15 feet long. He’s got big blue horns and he responds to the name Leo. Leo was last seen at Stead Field at 17th and P streets NW.

His owners would love to know if you’ve seen him around town. They’re offering a reward if you do find him.

Actually, Leo isn’t so much missing as he is hiding. The colorful dinosaur is doing it all for a good cause, too. He’s helping raise money to build a wheelchair ramp so handicapped children can have better access to arts programs.

Leo has sort of become the unofficial mascot of Washington Very Special Arts, a nonprofit organization that serves special-needs kids. He was born out of the combined efforts of more than 500 kids at their annual arts festival last spring. They built him based on a model made by a student at the program’s charter school. He has a welded metal frame covered by papier-mâché and mosaic tiles, sealed with a fiberglass coating.

Leo also has a lot of friends in the city. He has visited the Adams National Bank near 16th and L streets NW, the YMCA at 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW, and the National Soft Drink Association headquarters at 16th and L streets NW. Those organizations donated money to WVSA so that Leo could spend a month or so in front of their buildings and try to raise money there.

So far Leo has helped raise about $2,000 for the new wheelchair ramp. The ramp is important because many of the children who attend programs at WVSA are physically handicapped.

WVSA was founded in 1981 as an arts program for special-needs kids. The group now also runs a charter school for children in kindergarten through third grade, vocational training for young adults 14-24 and healthcare programs, plus its well-known gallery. The organization also sponsors its annual Arts Around the Block festival every spring, where Leo was born.

Leo originally took up residence in front of WVSA’a building at 16th and L streets, but now he’s left his familiar Farragut North territory and has gone prowling around the city. Officials at VSA were tight-lipped about Leo’s whereabouts, but they have released hints about where he might be.

Anyone who’s interested in joining the search for Leo can log onto the organization’s web site at www.wvsarts.org to see a picture of Leo at his current location and a clue to finding him. The first five people who correctly identify where Leo is will win a special prize. If you don’t guess right the first time, don’t worry. Leo will be moving to a new location every month.

If you’d like additional information about sponsoring Leo at your home or workplace, or if you’d like to contribute to the fundraising efforts, call Mary Connole at Washington Very Special Arts, (202) 884-9040.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator