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Sarasota Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 5 years ago

Touch of Africa offers reward for missing mascot

by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

Touch of Africa, a store on St. Armands Circle that sells African gifts and organizes trips to its namesake, found itself short one adult-sized lion costume Wednesday, Sept. 27. When marketing director Tammy Halsted came into the corporate and travel office, she was shocked to see that the $6,000 Lenny the Lion mascot costume was not hanging in its normal spot. Instead, only the costume’s vest remained.

“At first, I was puzzled,” she said. “I went back into the storage room to see if someone had already moved it, and that’s when it dawned on me.”

Halsted says the costume was taken from the back corridor of the office, where one of the building’s side doors was left unlocked accidentally. Police estimate that someone took the costume some time between midnight and 8 a.m.

“I think someone might’ve thought they had found a quick Halloween costume,” said Halsted. “They’d probably be surprised to learn how much it is actually worth. It’s a one-of-a-kind, registered mascot designed specifically for the company.”

Lenny the Lion was a familiar face around St. Armands and at Sarasota events, such as FridayFest, and Halsted says that Touch of Africa has had to cancel several upcoming events in light of the missing mascot.

“We don’t just use Lenny in front of the store,” she said. “You see him out at a lot of events, and he does a lot of work with children’s groups to spread the word about conservation and preservation. This affects a lot of people. At least six employees won’t be able to work without the costume.”

Touch of Africa is offering a reward for information leading to the recovery of the costume. Although she declined to specify the amount, Halsted says the reward is appropriate, considering the value of the costume.

“If anyone has seen anything or overheard anything, call the office at 447-2558,” she said. “We just want our Lenny back.”

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