Children of New Orleans, Monkey Claus is coming to town. Ryan Ballard, the man behind the Monkey Claus mask, will be carrying an unusual sack of goodies -- a whole lot of sock monkeys -- this year. Each monkey has been lovingly made by participants in Ballard's Sock Monkey Project gatherings downtown.
The socks are cut according to directions, sewn, stuffed and sewn again. Then the decorating begins. Some monkeys are JLo glamorous. Others, like the one I made, are more, well, haphazardly put together.
"The response has been incredible here," says Ballard, a Katrina evacuee who, after losing his home and job in New Orleans, relocated to the Springs and now coordinates Palmer High School's gifted and talented program. In the past, he has sent sock monkeys across the country to abused children, as well as to some who've lost their homes and others who've had lengthy hospital stays.
To help after Katrina, Ballard contacted Orphans International, which is working with Common Ground Collective, a grassroots organization, to construct a large foster home in New Orleans.
This week, his suitcases packed with more than 100 monkeys, he will fly to New Orleans. Then he'll get into his Monkey Claus gear and distribute them to the kids.
But why sock monkeys?
"Really, it's because they're handmade. It's my own opinion and feeling that the mass marketing of Christmas and consumerism are strangling our country," Ballard says. "It means more to build a monkey than to give a kid a Tonka truck. I think people crave that -- to do something personal. Life is so impersonal these days."
Ballard's non-profit organization, Razzamataz Productions, is accepting donated art supplies and monkeys. It's also accepting monetary donations, to be used for future Razzamataz works or earmarked for the Common Ground Collective.
Send or deliver donations to:
4630 Templeton Park Circle
Colorado Springs, CO 80917
Or, for more info, call 504-301-8201.