ALTON, Ill. There’s been another bizarre case of repeated thefts from a public garden.
Last week, FOX 2 reported about expensive planted flowers being pulled up and stolen, along with leaf blowers and weed eaters, from the Wilson Park botanical garden in Granite City, Illinois.
This time, it’s a ceramic frog called Fernando in Alton. Fernando is part of a water feature/fountain, the centerpiece of a large garden in the median at the State Street, Belle Street split.
The median was not much to look at before Alton residents Laura Wallendorf and Cheryl Seniour transformed it about five years ago.
“We just started working up here,” Wallendorf said.
They added flowers, hostas, and ornate grasses in place of waist-high weeds.
The Alton Public Works Department was so taken by the volunteer transformation, it added electric service and water service during a nearby streetlight project. One worker then added the “frog” fountain.
Wallendorf named the frog, Fernando, and a celebrity was born.
“It took off like nuts,” Wallendorf said. “People are going by (yelling), ‘We love the frog! We love the frog!’ So, it became our mainstay!”
Last Thursday, someone cut the water lines and stole Fernando. It’s the fourth time he’s either been smashed by vandals or stolen in four years.
“We never said anything before,” Seniour said. “We just replaced him, didn’t tell the kids when he got beat to death (vandalized). We told them he went to Florida.”
This time around, people were stopping to donate money for a new Fernando. Hundreds of dollars in donations have poured to Wallendorf’s sister, Sara Geison of Godfrey, who posted about Fernando on social media.
“Unbelievable! That’s what the response has been,” Geison said. “That’s what’s so crazy about this whole thing.”
People can donate via Venmo at @frogfund2023 or via mail: North Alton-Godfrey Business Council, P.O. Box 306, Godfrey, IL 62035.
Donations will go to the North Alton – Godfrey Business Council for the upkeep of the roadside oasis and the replacement cost for Fernando. They’re hoping to have the fountain this weekend along with new security cameras.