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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Splash statue is not gone after all.

The beloved $50,000, 500-pound fountain sculpture of children playing in the rain was recently stolen from a flower garden at Charlotte s Easter Seals UCP Children s Center and believed to be chopped up for scrap. Instead, it was found in Annie Sherard s front yard on Walnut Avenue in west Charlotte, about a 10-minute drive from the center.

It appeared to be undamaged.

That is wonderful news, Betsy Dailey, the local Easter Seals community director, said Saturday. Annie is a hero. The children will be so happy to have it back. Everyone told us that it was probably melted down and gone.

God is great.

Yet there was one piece of confusing information: The sculpture had been dumped in Sherard s yard more than two weeks ago. But center officials thought it d been missing for a few days.

I got up early I know it was at least two weeks ago to take my blood pressure medication and looked out the window to see if the newspaper had come, Sherard said Saturday. That sculpture was the first thing I saw.

She thought her son had dropped it off. But Thursday, when he paid her a visit after two weeks, he said, That s a nice of piece of sculpture in the front yard, Mama. Where d you get it?

And I said, You didn t bring it?

So Friday morning, she called Wilton Connor, whose house she kept for 20 years, and asked if he might know where Splash had come from.

I didn t until I saw the story (about the missing sculpture) in the newspaper (Saturday) morning, Connor said. He called her back, and asked her to describe the sculpture.

She described it perfectly, he said.

The greening 3-foot-tall bronze statue depicts a life-sized girl holding an umbrella, a boy about to skip a rock and another boy with a leg brace and a crutch laid down so he can launch a boat.

It was installed at the center in 2002, a gift from Irwin and Carol Belk on the center s 40th anniversary. The child development center, named for the Belks, is for children six weeks through pre-kindergarten with and without disabilities.

Dailey is not sure how the sculpture went missing for two weeks before a child noticed it was gone Friday morning. It is a centerpiece for a flower garden and the flowers had grown taller than Splash, They could have obscured the vision from the road.

Dailey s sure she saw it a week ago, and a van driver thought it d been gone for a couple days.

This is embarrassing, she said. We will make sure the flowers are cut back, and that the sculpture is more secure.

Saturday, it took two Charlotte firemen and a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer to load the piece onto a police pick-up truck.

Police have no suspects in the statue s theft.

Monday, Splash will be back home.

It s always amazing to me how cruel people can be, said CMPD officer B.C. Yandle. To take something like this from Easter Seals and children who enjoy it. That s beyond comprehension.



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