PORTSMOUTH — You’ve seen it countless times as you’ve driven past it on the Quaker Hill portion of East Main Road.
Now the glowing holiday whale that gushes candy canes from its blowhole has a name: “Snickers.”
A recent “name-the-whale” contest was initiated by Portsmouth High School student Erica Chase as part of her senior project to raise money for the social service charity The Caritas Foundation. Erica said she got the idea from her English teacher, Amanda Boswell.
“Everyone knows the whale on East Main Road; it’s kind of iconic in Portsmouth,” said Erica. “We decided to name the whale, and the money would go toward Caritas for use in the public school systems for families in Portsmouth.”
Ralph Craft, who puts up a creative holiday decoration in front of his house on Quaker Hill annually — last year was a tree, the year before that a fisherman — welcomed the idea.
“I said ‘Sure, go for it.’ It’s for a good cause,” Mr. Craft said.
So Erica invited people to name the whale for a $1 donation per suggestion. The contest ended Monday night, when the winning ticket — held by Elizabeth Velzis, who named the whale “Snickers” — was pulled at random during the PHS holiday concert.
In keeping with the “fish” theme (OK, it’s a mammal), Ms. Velzis also took home a $25 gift certificate from Scampi restaurant.
The name-the-whale contest was just one part of Erica’s ongoing senior project to benefit Caritas.
“The three days before Thanksgiving I did Coins for Caritas, where we collected coins,” Erica said. “Each grade was separate and the eighth grade won. On the last day we did a hat day, where each grade wore different hats and got a prize. We raised $464.”
If you didn’t participate in either fund-raiser, you can still donate money toward Erica’s project. Drop off or mail a check made out to “Caritas Foundation” in care of Nan Souza, school nurse at Portsmouth Middle School, 125 Jepson Lane, Portsmouth, RI 02871.
The need is year-round, so donations are welcome any time, Erica said. Also, if there’s a local family in need of help from Caritas, they should contact their child’s guidance counselor.
Erica, who wants to study nursing after graduation, said there are needy families everywhere, including in Portsmouth.
“I think the majority of people know there are always going to be those families that can’t afford good coats for the winter, which is something that’s big; there’s always a holiday coat drive at Caritas,” she said. “Some families moved here to get out of bad situations, but they don’t have enough money.”
For more information about Caritas, visit www.caritas.org.