By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Imagine this: you’re at work, during a particularly grueling day, when someone tells you to look outside. You look out a window, and standing on the sidewalk are several people dressed in tyrannosaurus rex costumes, waving their tiny little arms at you. Chances are, your day just got many times better.
That’s the goal of Operation T-Rex.
Stacey Colarusso is a preschool teacher in Needham and was looking for a fun way to shake up the school’s weekly drive-by parade for students. She made the suggestion that they should get one of the popular T-rex costumes, seen most often during Halloween. The preschool director admitted that the costume was one of her secret bucket-list buys and agreed that they should add it into the parade. “We started that with the preschoolers. We had so much fun. We were like ‘we got to take this show on the road,” recalls Colarusso.
At the time, many organizations and groups were trying the cheer up local healthcare staff working during COVID-19. Colarusso reached out to some friends involved with Beth Israel Hospital, who connected her with Clap for our Heroes. “Every Friday night, they had a campaign where someone would come by and the doctors would come out and you would give them some love. So to get it kicked off, I put on Facebook: 'In search of anyone with giant dino costumes.' You would not believe the amount of responses we got,” explains Colarusso.
Since then, Colarusso and her 18 partners in Operation T-Rex have been working to cheer people up during the COVID-19 crisis. They’ve attended the Needham High School graduation parade, with ten dinos showing their support for the class of 2020. “That was the most fun event, because we touched the most people in one afternoon ever,” says Colarusso. “It was really rewarding.”
“It was great because you could see their faces just light up when they saw us,” adds Jason Hecht, a member of Operation T-Rex. Hecht, a seventh-grader at Pollard Middle School, has helped reach out to facilities in need of some T-rex-sized attention.
Operation T-Rex has gone to Beth Israel Hospital, the Needham Police and Fire Station, and the Center at the Heights as a fun way to thank workers during this chaotic time, all while maintaining proper social distancing outside of the facilities. The group plans to attend the Pollard Middle School graduation. It's hoping to show support in Newton, as well, and may even be taking a trip to Boston Children’s Hospital.
What started out as a simple way to bring some joy to the community has become just as much fun for the volunteers. “When the dinos get together, they’re so full of energy. I don’t know these people outside of this group, but they have so much energy and enthusiasm, that it’s infection. It’s just the best,” says Colarusso.
“It’s great. We all have dino personalities when we put the suits on,” says Hecht. Some dinos have even developed voices they only use when in costume; one particular volunteer has become known for taking on a New York accent.
Operation T-Rex continues to grow each day, with numerous people excited to suit up in costume and bring some cheer to the community. “I get giddy every time I think about an opportunity to put my suit on,” says Colarusso with a laugh. “It’s just so much fun. Just the idea. I get to put it on, go outside, and make people laugh just makes me feel so good. They’re so silly. There’s just something about them that just makes people laugh.” Next time you see a T-rex and you're unsure why, know that it is not "Jurassic Park" coming back, but rather a great way to bring some cheer.