What do pink flamingos and Christmas trees have in common?
Ask Frank Picozzi and he’ll tell you they both come in flocks. Well, maybe stands for trees. But there’s a lot more to it. Both the birds and the trees are there for a good cause.
Known for his home digital Christmas display that he expanded into a traveling tree that he brought to Hasbro Children’s Hospital last year, Picozzi is behind the “yuling” that started last week and promises to hit 300 homes this season.
“It’s a direct rip off from the Girl Scouts,” Picozzi said Tuesday, “it’s been done to me a couple of times.” What Picozzi is talking about is “flocking,” where people pay to have the Girl Scouts set up a flock of pink flamingos in the yard of an unsuspecting friend. Whoever is “flocked” has the opportunity to send the flock forward for another donation.
But in place of birds, Picozzi is “yuling” with Christmas trees. He’s rallied ten “yuling” teams and even named a general – Lori Gebler – to command the army of 30 volunteers to move the plywood cutouts from location to location.
The “yuling” is all for the benefit of The Tomorrow Fund. Based on Picozzi’s projections of $10 per “yuling,” the campaign has the potential of raising $3,000 for the fund. Already, “General” Lori is finding people are giving more so there’s no saying what the trees will generate. The money seems secondary to the Christmas spirit.
Lori and her husband, Karl, dressed as Santa helpers, were on the road Tuesday with their first stop being St. Rose of Lima School to fill a “yuling” order placed by a former teacher who now lives out of state.
To recruit yulers and yule orders, Picozzi turned to A Positive Warwick on Facebook and the Warwick “Good Night Lights” team that visits Hasbro Children’s Hospital on Tuesday nights.
Lori said she learned of Picozzi’s community efforts when he vinyl sided their home a year ago. She joined him and others to flash lights to children in the hospital as a way to saying good night. The children have flashlights to flash back.
Picozzi introduced to the program that involves individuals, groups and businesses flashing lights from across Providence and East Providence, a digital Christmas tree that he operates by computer from the back of his truck. He’ll be doing that again this year.
“We love that kind of stuff,” said Lori.
So when Picozzi asked if she would take on another project, Lori didn’t hesitate. At first she was just going to help, but Picozzi found he had so much going between his home display where donations also go to The Tomorrow Fund and Good Night Lights that he asked her to take charge.
“He said I’ll give you the trees and you run it,” she said.
Lori is in the spirit.
“The way we look at it, it’s all about the kids,” she said.
The Tomorrow Fund offers a broad spectrum of assistance to pediatric cancer patients and their families, from psychosocial services to community referrals to financial support. The fund provides a daily stipend to the family of every child in the pediatric oncology clinic, a parking pass, and assisted living expenses. Bell Atlantic provides cellular phones.
According to the Hasbro Children’s Hospital website, The Tomorrow Fund supports several positions in the pediatric oncology clinic at the hospital and stocks the clinic with welcome distractions for its young patients. Lori has never organized a program on the scale of the Christmas “yuling.”
“Leading our 10 teams of elves, as they move the Picozzi Christmas displays around Warwick at all hours of the day and night, warms my heart and makes me smile with pride,” she said. “That’s a beautiful gift to myself, at this magical time of year, knowing all the while what we are doing for The Tomorrow Fund.”
Picozzi said he rushed to put the program in place for this holiday season. At one point he was even contemplating cutout trees that lit up. He settled for painted trees that can be easily erected on stands.
Maybe Picozzi got a little ahead of himself. He hastily sent off signs to accompany each “yuling,” but not until he started putting them up did he notice he’d omitted the “R” from Christmas.
It was too late to order new signs with the correction, so the trees started sprouting across the city this week.
With 300 prepaid yulings on order, there’s work to be done.