Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Found! Super Bowl Super Kid Mystery Artist Located

Super Bowl Super Kids Welcoming Card (front)

Breanna has been found!  The Super Bowl Super Kid Artist whose welcoming card found its way into my hotel room has been located.  It took almost a month, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 phone calls, dozens of emails, and an army of helpers.

If you're new to the story, here's the background.  I went to Indianapolis to cover the New England Patriots for my network, Comcast SportsNet New England. That same week, Follow the Dog Home, a book coauthored by me, my 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, and my 72-year-old father, Bob, was released.  Follow the Dog Home is the story of how my family raised dogs through three generations, and is told in three voices: grandfather, father, granddaughter.  It was reviewed by Publishers Weekly which called it "quaint and most charming."

I brought one of my signed author's copies with me to Indy, thinking I'd probably meet someone somewhere along the way who would like it.  After finding Breanna's welcome card on my nightstand, and seeing her note about how much she loved animals and the Indianapolis Zoo, I couldn't think of anyone better.

Super Bowl Super Kids Welcoming Card (back)

I took the book to the most appropriate channel, the Super Bowl Host Committee.  Its address was stamped on the front of the card.  I thought my super artist would be easy to find, and the hand off would be simple.  Not exactly.  There was no last name, no school name, no numbering system, and really no way to really track who my Super Kid Super Artist was.  So, in essence, it was the proverbial needle in a haystack.  This was one of 36,000 welcoming cards made, 18,000 of which were left in hotel rooms for Super Bowl visitors as part of Hoosier Hospitality.  I left the book with the Host Committee and said we'll find her.

Numbers can be overwhelming, but if you know how to whittle them down, they're not so intimidating.  Plus I had a few clues.  I had a first name, a self-portrait--which was very well-drawn, an age and a home city.  I figured how many girls in 100 are named Breanna?  Let's guess there are maybe four.  Extrapolate that over 18,000 and you have 72 Breannas.  Cancel out most of the state because she indicated she's from Indianapolis, and we've narrowed it further.

When I contacted schools and school districts, I told them exactly who I was, what I was doing and why.  Most of the people I talked to fell in love with the story and wanted to help.  I shared conversations, emails, and the pictures you see above with dozens of secretaries, district officials, principals, libraries and other key contacts.  They in turn shared them with their friends, colleagues and contacts.

About two weeks into the search, the list of Breannas was narrowed down to about 16.  Then four.  But the funny and frustrating thing is, the closer you get, the harder it becomes to solve.  As much as I thought schools were the key, I went back to what identified Breanna almost as much as her likeness--her love of animals and the Indianapolis Zoo.

This is where we reached a tipping point, with volunteers who remembered children who colored cards at different parties:  the kid artists' personalities, stories and their families.  WMFS 95.5's Karyn Sullyvan, and WRTV 6's Stacia Matthews got involved, putting more ears and eyeballs on it.  Soon thereafter we found our greatest clue which ultimately led to Breanna's location.  She was shown a copy of my welcoming card and confirmed the artwork was hers.   

So here we are.  The search is over.  I'm thrilled by that.  The next step is to fulfill the original mission--share the book that I left behind with the Host Committee.  It  would be a nice way to say thank you to Breanna, and everyone else for the Hoosier Hospitality.   

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