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Fort Wayne rapper organizes live benefit show to fix up Conservatory’s ‘Woody’

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - The animatronic tree known as Woody at the Botanical Conservatory is in rough shape, and the community is stepping up to bring him back to life.

Woody has called Fort Wayne home for more than 20 years and thousands of kids have enjoyed his chatter.

Now, the talking tree is missing bark, missing some tiny doors on his trunk, and he's even missing a limb.

Organizers from the Botanical Conservatory said Woody has withstood a lot of use and abuse.

"He's been loved to death," Department Director of Community Outreach Mitch Sheppard said.

"He has his own personality. People talk about him like they know him; like he's a part of their own family."

The Botanical Conservatory wants to fix him up but also give him a vocabulary upgrade.

It's a $50,000 project, and organizers said they are about 2/3 of the way to their goal.

Stephen Bryden lives in Fort Wayne and has taken his kids to the Botanical Conservatory for years, so when he found out Woody had fallen on hard times, he knew he had to do something.

Bryden, a Fort Wayne rapper who goes by Sankofa, thought a benefit show would be just the trick to bring in enough money to restore Woody to his old glory.

On Friday, The Brass Rail will host a benefit show featuring live music from Pete Dio and The Old & Dirty, El Camino Hot Tub, Ragnarock and Sankofa.

It'll cost $5 at the door, and all proceeds will benefit Woody's restoration project.

The show begins at 10 p.m. Friday at The Brass Rail.

Organizers will also hold a silent auction to raise money for Woody during the show.

Beyond patching up Woody, folks at the Botanical Conservatory want to patch up another beloved exhibit: the worm tunnel.

It's been loved up pretty hard, too.

The worm tunnel allows kids to explore the "underground" tunnel from the perspective of an ant.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward structural and cosmetic upgrades to the tunnel.

If you can't make it to the show but want to help out, click here to make a donation.

The hope is to have all of the renovations completed by the end of 2020.

Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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