Lindsey and Matt Sera didn’t expect much when they reached out to the Frederick community earlier this month seeking help finding their 1-year-old son’s lost stuffed animal.
“When we first came home we were talking about it the entire way, like, ‘Oh, no! Where did he go?’ and she felt so bad, she was really broken up about it,” Matt said of his wife, who was the first to notice the stuffed monkey was missing after the family walked down to Baker Park to watch the city’s Fourth of July fireworks display. “She was like, ‘I’m going to get online and see if someone will help us find this thing.’”
Seeing their son Christian’s smile as he was reunited with a familiar face on Tuesday, the couple agreed that Lindsey’s determination was well worth it.
While the original monkey, named Caesar, remains unaccounted for, a team of dedicated Frederick Memorial Hospital volunteers and auxiliary members rallied around the family to find an exact replacement toy for Christian, who gleefully embraced the new stuff animal in the hospital lobby Tuesday afternoon.
“We’ve always loved Frederick, even growing up. There’s a great sense of community and the neighborhoods, so when we were looking for a house we were like, we need to be in the heart of Frederick, we need to be downtown, we want to be where everybody is,” Lindsey said. “There’s great communities everywhere, but ours? There’s nothing like it and we’re so thankful to everyone.”
As happy as Tuesday’s reunion was, the road to finding a replacement for Caesar was far from straightforward. The Frederick Police Department posted several lookouts on its social media accounts for the missing monkey, quickly generating more than 250,000 views, but as time wore on, the chances of finding Caesar gradually diminished.
Having walked and re-walked the family’s route downtown, Lindsey turned to the hospital’s gift shop, where Caesar was purchased. Even though the toy was no longer stocked, knowing part of Caesar’s origin proved instrumental in reaching a happy ending, as longtime hospital volunteer Wendy Brundage and her colleagues caught wind of the story and began their own investigation.
Armed with a picture of Caesar clipped from an article published in The Frederick News-Post, Brundage, who is in charge of filling the shop’s inventory and replacing its stock, dove headfirst into the crowd at a large regional gift and home furnishings convention she attended in Atlanta a week after Caesar’s story broke.
“I knew it had to be one of our stuffed animal people and so when I was down at the event in Atlanta I took a picture of the monkey from the story in The News-Post and I started showing it to all the vendors and asking around,” Brundage said. “The last vendor I went to, I think I had been to six already, turned out to be the one, it was a company called Wish Pets, from Oregon, and we were able to confirm it was the exact same toy.”
While Brundage insists her feat was “no big deal,” the convention she attended, the AmericasMart International Gift & Home Furnishings Market, was made up of hundreds of vendors spread out over three different buildings, each with multiple floors packed with dealers from all over the country. In reality, the simple act of finding Wish Pets and verifying them as Caesar’s manufacturers took Brundage the better part of a full day.
Still, it was worth it, Brundage said.
“I was just really pleased that we were able to help the family out,” Brundage said, adding that the representatives she spoke with from Wish Pets were equally happy to pitch in on their own to give Christian a happy ending. “... It was so nice of that company, they agreed to help right away and they put us as one of their top priorities, they right away said that they would send [a new] monkey for free to replace him and we were able to get the ball rolling very quickly.”
Back at the hospital, the Seras agreed, smiling as Christian and his new toy received plastic badges from two Frederick police officers before being invited to get a close-up view of a Frederick police cruiser parked outside.
As the small gathering came to a close, Lindsey and Matt had one last hurdle to overcome, what to name the new stuffed animal.
“I think it’ll be a relative of Caesar, we were actually thinking we should name it something different so that [Christian] can remember Caesar as he was and then this can be his new friend, who is a relative,” Lindsey said with a laugh.
Whatever name the family eventually settles on, both Lindsey and Matt acknowledged that the most important thing was that Christian was happy and smiling with his new friend.
“He just knows that this is his monkey,” Matt said.