The vIRaL Orange Flamingos of Weare

Ice buckets, yellow bracelets, pink bows…there is another viral cause in the town of Weare, New Hampshire: the Orange Flamingos of the #AbbyStrong “Army.”

Shortly before the start of this school year, twelve-year-old Abby Van Dyke was diagnosed with leukemia. Immediately, friends and family went into action. They put together a fundraiser selling plastic lawn flamingos in the color of leukemia awareness. “It was mostly about getting as many out before she came home from the hospital,” one of the organizers said, “so she’d drive through town and see them, and know that everyone was thinking of her and praying for her and her family.”

I first heard about the flamingos at Weare’s Old Home Day on August 27th, when their booth sold out by mid-day. But I was late to the party. By this point, flamingos were everywhere. They still are everywhere—and I mean everywhere. “We have people actually call us from Canada, and Florida, Arizona,” an organizer said. The #AbbyStrong “Army” encourages this migration—they just ask that people post pictures to their Facebook page.

Clockwise from top right: the flock outside Just Like Mom’s Pastries; a flamboyance of dressy flamingos on Dustin Tavern Road; flamingos who have migrated to the Apotheca coffee shop in Goffstown (and who can blame them?); the Flamingos of the Night’s Watch along The Wall…of Flanders Memorial Road; and patriotic flamingos outside the Weare Historical Society and Weare Public Library.
Clockwise from top right: the watering hole outside Just Like Mom’s Pastries; a flamboyance of dressy flamingos on Dustin Tavern Road; flamingos who have migrated to the Apotheca coffee shop in Goffstown (and who can blame them?); the Flamingos of the Night’s Watch along The Wall…of Flanders Memorial Road; and patriotic flamingos outside the Weare Historical Society and Weare Public Library.

In a time when we live too much of our lives online, it is comforting to see a community come together in real life. This is an old fashioned vIRaL campaign—viral IRL.

But this fundraiser has not been without its drama. When a bunch of the flamingos were stolen, the Weare Police Department reported the crime on their Facebook page. Their post was a graphic of a single word: “Really?”

The Weare Police Department’s Facebook page: the reaction to the theft and when the flamingos were returned.
The Weare Police Department’s Facebook page: the reaction to the theft and when the flamingos were returned.

The thieves realized they had done wrong, and they gave back all the flamingos—along with a donation to the #AbbyStrong movement.

Their letter read:

We are truly sorry for our actions and had no idea what the flamingos on Colby Road symbolized. We would have never taken them. Please know that we returned all the flamingos we took. We did not go around town [or] all over the place—they were only taken on Colby Road. If others are missing, that wasn’t us. We have enclosed a small donation hoping this will make a difference. Stay strong—you got this. Again we are truly sorry for our actions and will never do anything like this again.

[Note: I corrected the thieves’ grammar because I’m a teacher and that’s what I do.] The general consensus in town is that—while no one condones stealing the flamingos in the first place—their return, the apology, and the donation were appropriate penance.

Meanwhile, Abby has entered her second round of chemo, which cannot be easy. I have noticed from the family’s Thanksgiving photo (far right) that Abby is not using a hat or bandana (beyond what the weather requires). I wonder how much this is convenience and how much is a result of the support of her friends and community? I would like to think it is both liberating and comfortable!

Three views of Abby from #AbbyStrong’s “Army” Facebook page: before chemo, during, and between treatments.
Three views of Abby from #AbbyStrong’s “Army” Facebook page: before chemo, during, and between treatments.

I am heartened by the statistics on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s webpage that five-year survival rates among those aged 15 and younger may be as high as 91%, depending on the type of leukemia she has.

And at least the thieves were right on one count: Stay strong, Abby. You got this.

Truths about Sabbatical So Far…

  1. You wake up at 6:30 but do not dress until noon…
  2. Your day is divided not in terms of  three meals, but in terms of two courses: coffee and wine.
  3. Calendars and computers are more important than ever because you have no clue what day it is otherwise.
  4. Because you live in a house heated by wood, you share your husband’s excitement about his new chainsaw.
  5. And that’s when you realize you are a full-time writer married to a lumberjack—like a romance novel, and therefore awesome.
  6. You binge-watch Alaska: The Last Frontier with your lumberjack husband and think, “That’s not a chainsaw. I’ll show you a chainsaw!”
  7. You view your meal delivery service as a correspondence cooking course—and vegetable insurance.
  8. You cook for your 16-year-old dog because you can, and because he deserves it. He doesn’t always eat it, though, because he’s just that spoiled.
  9. You take longer to release books because you have time to make them the best they can be. And your lumberjack is a tough editor.
  10. You look forward to writing conferences and other appearances so that you have an excuse to wear big girl clothes and have human interaction beyond your aforementioned lumberjack.

Speaking of #10, I am off the New Jersey Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book Conference tomorrow (hence the early post). I’ll mostly be offline, so have a great weekend, everybody!