Watch out! A flock of pink, spindly-legged flamingoes may be headed to your lawn.
West Middle School parents have introduced a flock of 144 of the plastic lawn ornaments to raise money for the school. Local residents can make a donation to have the birds "migrate" to a lawn of a friend or neighbor in town. When the surprised residents wake up to find they've been "flocked," and a group of about a dozen plastic pink flamingoes now reside on their front lawn, they'll be asked to make a donation to have the birds removed. Or they can pay to send them to roost on another lawn in town.
Folks can also pay for "flocking insurance," making a donation to West Middle to ensure the pink birds will never show up on their lawn as part of the money-raising effort. A flier explaining the flocking process will be left with the flamingoes at each house.
"It's all in fun. I think people will be in good humor about it. You don't see a lot of pink flamingoes around here," said Tracy Callahan, Parent Advisory Council vice president, with a laugh. "We were looking to try something different that hadn't been done around here (for a fundraiser), and flocking is popular in other parts of the country. It just looked like a lot of fun. We're excited about it."
Between 10 and 12 flocks of flamingoes will circulate on Andover lawns until May 23, and the PAC hopes to "flock" at least 100 different yards in Andover, said Callahan.
West Middle parents and middle school volunteers, led by "flocking captains," will move the birds from yard to yard — in the secrecy of early morning — every 24 or 48 hours, said Callahan.
"We hope with families, it becomes a status symbol. (People will ask each other) 'Oh, have you been flocked yet?'" said Callahan.
A covert operation within the WMS PAC is searching out "prominent addresses" of notable names and faces in town, said Callahan, to flock their yards.
The flock was first introduced to town on Tuesday, May 6, when West Middle School itself was flocked — with all 140 birds. From there, flocking requests started coming in, and the birds were separated into smaller flocks, headed to lawns around town.
If an unsuspecting resident is flocked and does not want to contribute to WMS, the flamingoes will move on within 48 hours regardless of whether any money is donated, said Callahan.
Money raised through the flocking fundraiser will be used for technology upgrades at West Middle, including document readers, Smartboards and equipment for podcasts; professional and staff development workshops; and the School Climate Program, which hosts student-leadership workshops.
The fundraiser also will help West Middle host a group of special education students who would normally be sent out of district. This EXCEL program will start at West Middle next fall, and the flocking cash will help cover extra expenses not handled by the school budget, said Callahan.
The flocking fundraiser has replaced West Middle's annual magazine drive, which became too hard to organize and wasn't making that much money, she said.
The PAC purchased its flamingoes — six cases in all — from a novelty supplier, and after the fundraiser, the flock will remain property of the school and kept in storage. If flocking catches on, the PAC wants to make it a reoccurring fundraiser and rent the flock to other nonprofits for flocking fundraisers.
For now, West Middle School students and parents are having fun in what may be Andover's first-ever flocking, said Callahan. Organizers hope the birds will not be stolen or vandalized.
"Please, leave the birds alone," said Callahan to any would-be miscreants. "Remember it's a fundraiser."
Denise Holmes, former principal of West Middle who retired in December, first suggested the idea for flocking at a fundraiser brainstorming session, said Callahan. She now lives in Vermont, and several PAC members have joked about taking a road trip up to see her — with a car full of pink flamingoes.
Think pink: West Middle School's flamingo flocking
r For full details, to donate and have someone flocked, or keep tabs on where the flock has been, visit www.wmsflamingo.blogspot.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
r Fundraiser for West Middle School PAC, runs through May 23
r Flamingoes will migrate only within the town of Andover
How it works:
r Residents can make a donation to "flock" someone in town, sending a group of pink flamingoes to their lawn. Once flocked, residents can donate to have the birds removed, send them to another house or elect to keep them on their lawn, until they migrate on their own in 48 hours
r A flier explaining the flocking process will be left at each house with the flamingoes
r Residents can also donate for flocking insurance, which will keep the birds away from your lawn during this migrating season
r Flamingoes will be removed within 48 hours, whether a donation is made or not
r Suggested donations are $35 to have someone flocked or to move the flock along, and $15 for flocking insurance
r To request a flocking, e-mail email@example.com. Payments should be dropped off at the WMS office or mailed to WMS PAC, 70 Shawsheen Road, Andover, MA 01810. Make checks payable to "WMS PAC."