Clifford the Gator

A headless Clifford the Gator, outside Gifford Elementary School, 8332 Northwestern Ave., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. The head of Clifford the Gator, the school's mascot was removed and stolen, overnight according to a Caledonia Police news release issued Wednesday. / Gregory Shaver, gregory.shaver@journaltimes.com Buy this photo at jtreprints.com

CALEDONIA — Gifford Elementary School’s alligator mascot will be made whole this summer, after vandals removed and damaged his head this spring.

Clifford the Gator stands in front of Gifford, 8332 Northwestern Ave. His head was reported missing March 26. On April 13 it was left on the porch of Gifford Principal Les Hunt’s house.

The head was badly damaged, with an eye missing. School officials said at the time that they hoped to restore the mascot but were unsure if they could.

Hunt said this week they can indeed restore Clifford, and the school’s Parent-Teacher Association and one anonymous donor will foot the about $1,500 bill.

“He is in rough shape but there’s enough of it together so that I don’t think anybody who’s particularly skilled at this type of work would have any trouble reconstructing him,” Hunt said, adding there are also photographs to work from.

Clifford’s body was taken down last week by Unified buildings and grounds staff, Hunt said.

“I had mentioned to the RUSD grounds department that it was depressing to drive in every day and see him standing there headless,” he said.

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Clifford is being stored in the school for now, but will be sent to D.W.O. Fiberglass in Sparta for repair before the end of the school year, Hunt said.

The company estimated repairs will cost between $1,500 and $2,000. The PTA on Monday approved spending $1,500 on the project. A family whose son attended Gifford for summer school also gave $200; they want to remain anonymous, Hunt said.

“It was unsolicited,” he said, “because a mom said her son was so upset.”

Clifford should be repaired and re-installed in time for the start of the coming 2014-15 school year, Hunt said, “maybe with some sort of grand unveiling for the boys and girls when he’s whole.”

The mascot was made around 2002 by third-grade students working with a local artist, who was participating in the PTA-funded artist-in-residence program.

This spring was not the first time Clifford’s head was taken. It was also removed in 2005. That time it was later returned to its rightful spot.

No one has been apprehended for the recent vandalism and theft, Caledonia Police Lt. Gary Larsen said Thursday. Tips are still welcome, he added. Call the Caledonia Police Department at 262-835-4423, extension 139.

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