After vandals irreparably damaged a charity's beloved clown mascot over the course of three nights in October, 2015, the Ronald McDonald House of Burlington, Vermont welcomed a replacement statue Tuesday.
"Seeing this and having him back, it seems like the Ronald McDonald house again," the non-profit's executive director, Kristine Bickford, said, referring to the house's new Ronald McDonald statue.
Last fall, unknown vandals burned, dismembered, and decapitated the charity's previous statue, known as "Ronnie."
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Ronnie sat outside the Ronald McDonald House for years, cheering up kids staying at the home with their parents very affordably, while the children receive vital care at the nearby University of Vermont Medical Center.
It was predicted to cost about $7,500 to replace the statue, necn reported last year.
However, when news of the vandalism spread through social media, and got picked up by national news outlets, Ken and Tracy Coleman of Springfield, Missouri reached out offering to donate a replacement statue.
The couple owns several McDonald's restaurants in Missouri, and had an extra Ronald McDonald statue, they said, following a restaurant renovation. The Colemans' statue was in a seated position, similar to the Burlington statue, which occupied a park bench by a playground outside the home.
"I think he really does bring hope, and a feeling of love," Tracy Coleman said of the statue Tuesday, after arriving at the Burlington charity with an escort from the Burlington Police Department for the last mile or so of the statue's journey from Missouri.
"I've never had a police escort before," remarked Ken Coleman, who said the VIP arrival was a heartwarming way to cap the drive from Missouri to Burlington, roughly 1,400 miles total.
No suspects in that 2015 vandalism were ever identified, Bickford said. A main reason why is the house did not have security cameras. But that has changed.
Some of the approximately $4,000 in donations raised through attention from the crime helped the non-profit install a new surveillance system and better outside lighting. The cameras are also infrared, so the Ronald McDonald House hopes the extra set of eyes will keep the new Ronnie safe in the future.
Last fall, the charity initially planned on locating an eventual replacement statue indoors. But after further discussions, Bickford said the decision was made to return the popular clown to the same outdoor playground.
Click here for more information on the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Burlington, Vermont.