By Jennifer DiDomenico
For the News-Gazette
Kissimmee Elementary School is unveiling its new bear cub statue Thursday, celebrating the rebuilding of the school’s mascot after it was destroyed by vandals in October.
“We are really excited to show it off to the community,” said Amanda Brown, a fifth-grade teacher at Kissimmee Elementary, 3700 W. Donegan Ave. “We want to celebrate that it’s still here, and show everyone that the vandalizing didn’t bring us down and that the statue is better than ever.”
The bear cub statue was built by Becky Beckwith, a former kindergarten teacher at Kissimmee Elementary School. Erected in 2002, it had become an icon for the school community. A tradition on the first day of school is for students to have their pictures taken with the bear cub mascot. Time had taken its toll on the bear, and he was completely restored in 2014 by art teacher Juan Rodriguez and several fifth grade students.
The statue was repaired and rebuilt inside of a tent, making the unveiling extra special.
“You can really feel the excitement building,” said David Noyes, principal at Kissimmee Elementary. “No one was really able to see what was happening. You can feel the excitement with the kids, and even the parents are excited to see the bear rebuilt.”
The unveiling event is free for all students, families and community members to attend from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
It will be in the front parking lot of the school so the bear can be the center of attention. The event will also include activities for kids, bounce houses, face painting, free food and more.
“The bear has really become an icon for our school,” said Noyes. “When [the vandalism] happened, I had no idea the kind of community support that we would get within our school and outside of our school as well.”
Local businesses and companies have donated the funds to make this rebuild happen, including Center State Bank and Mark’s Custom Kits.