mercredi 30 juillet 2008

[Actus Flamants] Sur Boston.com, le 17 juillet 2008

(Globe Staff / Matthew J. Lee) Hingham high football players (from left) Pat Creahan, Liam O'Neil, Kurt Cawley, Tom Rogg, Jake Quinn, and K.C. Murphy, and their flock.

Pink flamingos help student athletes raise a little green

By Mary Donius Globe Correspondent / July 17, 2008

When Dianne Reilly looked out her window one day last week, she could have sworn there was a flock of flamingos in her Hingham front yard. She rubbed her eyes, did a double-take, and . . . they were still there.
Reilly was one of the first to get "flocked." Members of the high school football team had surreptitiously placed a collection of plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments in front of her house when she wasn't looking. Reilly would soon discover that to get the flock moved off her yard would require a discreet payoff.
Blackmail? A practical joke? A lighthearted bit of both, not to mention a novel way to raise money.
"Flocking," as it has become known, is a fund-raising tool that accounts for the flamingos showing up on suburban lawns - mostly recently in Hingham, home of the Hingham Gridiron Club, the high school football team's parent boosters.
Here's how it works: Someone pays the club to place a flock of pink plastic flamingos on someone else's lawn. The recipient also gets a pink sign explaining the rules and an envelope. For a $20 dona tion to the team, the flamingos will be removed. For another $20, the team will "flock" a friend or neighbor.
While the donations are, of course, voluntary, the phones in Hingham have been ringing off the hook and the checks pouring in. What began as a four-flock operation doubled to eight last week.
"It's getting to the point where people are feeling left out if they haven't been flocked," said football parent Ken Murphy. Murphy got the idea on a trip to Florida, but flocking had already cropped up elsewhere in the Boston suburbs.
Mansfield, for example, used it this spring to raise money to upgrade a preschool playground - and persevered even after one of its flocks was stolen. Flockings also are common in Central Massachusetts. The National Plastics Center and Museum in Leominster - the city where the first plastic lawn ornaments were made in 1957 by artist and sculptor Don Featherstone - has been known to provide a flock or two.
People have come to order flocks as they do flowers. Have a friend with a birthday or a job promotion? Mark the moment with a pink surprise on the front lawn. Never mind that neighbors and motorists are sometimes perplexed by the displays of birds cropping up around town.
At first, it wasn't clear how flocking was going to go over in Hingham, where lawn ornamentation tends toward tasteful topiaries rather than pink plastic plumage. "I was struggling to cope with the idea it would actually work," said Ken Murphy's son, K.C., a football team cocaptain who has been busy moving flocks from house to house.
But the overwhelming positive response has changed his mind.
Now the younger Murphy and cocaptain Pat Creahan see it as a team-building exercise.
"I think it's been real good for the football team," said Creahan. "It's fun to move the flocks and get other teammates involved."
And while the plastic birds may indeed be tacky, so far no one seems to mind.
"They're so tacky it's almost chic," said Ken Murphy, who along with his wife, Amy, and fellow team parents Sheila and John Creahan lead the booster club for the 2008 season. Murphy hopes to raise more than $10,000 this way. That is a good chunk of the $30,000 the Gridiron Club set out to raise this year.
"I thought it would be a great way to get the kids involved in raising money for the team," said Murphy.
So far, the players have been agreeable about going out to move the plastic birds each day. And, as Ken Murphy notes, "Getting 17-year-old boys excited about anything is difficult, especially pink flamingos."
Shellee Golden, whose son was a cocaptain of the team last year, said she liked her flock of pink flamingos so much she didn't want them to leave. "I called and asked, 'What happens if you don't want to give them up?' " So she made a donation to the boosters along with a deal to keep her flock for a few extra days before flocking a neighbor.
"The response has been unbelievable," said Sheila Creahan. "People can't wait to get flocked."
There's an added bonus to raising money this way, says Murphy: "This will save us several days at the dump collecting bottles."
Mary Donius can be reached at muldon@comcast.net.

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