Erwin Trunk Project expanding its reach

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 2, 2018 at 10:04 PM

ERWIN — Last fall, RISE Erwin’s Trunk Project auction of colorfully painted baby elephant statues that spent the spring and summer on display throughout downtown raised $16,000 for The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald.

This year there is a new herd of baby elephant statues dressing up Erwin and another Trunk Project auction set for October, from which 75 percent of proceeds will go to charitable organizations of the sponsors’ choice.

In addition to the Hohenwald sanctuary for retired performance elephants, the beneficiaries of this year’s auction so far will include the Unicoi County Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society, the Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Greeneville, the Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House in Johnson City and Erwin’s own Love Chapel Christian Church.

RISE Erwin President Jamie Rice said five of the eight elephant statues already have sponsors and those that do not hold a rare giving opportunity for any charitable organizations a would-be sponsor may already support.

Produced by Elephant Parade and uniquely painted by local artists, most of the statues sold in last year’s auction went for $2,000 to $3,000, Rice said. Sponsorships for this year’s elephants are $1,500, making the odds very good that the auction proceeds will meet or exceed the sponsors’ contribution with 75 percent of the sale price going to their favorite nonprofit organization.

Rice said Erwin is fortunate to have this particular brand of statues that are normally seen in larger, metropolitan areas around globe such as London, Madrid and Hong Kong and, to her her knowledge, are found in no other city in the United States besides Erwin.

She said local auction prices have also been a plus for buyers and compare to prices between $10,000 and $15,000 found on the Elephant Parade website.

For now, Rice said RISE Erwin is inviting everyone to come see the unique little elephants and help spread the word that they are back in downtown and up for sale again in October by taking a selfie with the statues and posting it on social media with the hashtag #ShowYourTrunk.

Look for them along Main Avenue and Love Street starting at Town Hall and in front businesses on every block.

Watch for Steven, the blue, puzzle piece, autism awareness elephant at the front of Erwin’s new ice cream parlor, What’s the Scoop. Painted by Maryanna White in honor of her son, Steven, the statue is sponsored by McDonald’s of Erwin and will benefit the local Ronald McDonald House.

Take a close look at Stella, the purple elephant with a barcode on her plaque that will link your cell phone to “Stella Shines On,” a music video produced by the Unicoi County Drama Department featuring student singers with ukulele accompaniment.

And look for elephants sponsored by Scott’s Farms Market to benefit Holston Home for Children, by the Bryant family to benefit The Elephant Sanctuary and by Rice and her husband, Matthew, to benefit Love Chapel Christian in memory of of their son, Samuel.

“We want people to come see them, walk around and enjoy Erwin and enjoy our little elephants,” Rice said. “They will make you smile, You can’t help but smile when you see them. Kids love them, and adults too.”

For sponsorship information or to learn more about The Trunk Project, call Jamie Rice at at 423-743-6231 or 423-220-7624.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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