Where's Waldo Statement

After the Highland Park July 4th shooting, several photos circulated of the alleged shooter appearing in a Waldo outfit (from the children’s book character in the Where’s Waldo books) at a political rally in 2020. Several individuals got in touch with Bookends & Beginnings to request that we cancel our annual Where’s Waldo scavenger hunt, saying that Waldo images were a disturbing reminder of the tragedy.


Keeping in mind how incredibly raw and fragile many people are feeling about this nightmare, we decided to delete images from our social media accounts that might be considered triggering, and to refrain from any further publicizing of the event. However, we will not be cancelling the actual scavenger hunt, which was already in progress before the shooting.


We began running our Waldo event on July 1, before anything had happened, and we currently have more than 50 children signed up, all of whom are oblivious to any connection between the shooting and this fictional, beloved character. If we were to stop the event now, these 50 children would have to have it explained to them that Waldo is not the fun, engaging character they have experienced, but that he is somehow sinister and now, actually, forbidden. We do not believe that the awareness of some adults that this shooter dressed up once in a Waldo outfit at an event two years ago warrants taking this wholly innocent and fun activity away from 50 children. This bad individual has done enough harm in the community without having his evil amplified in this way.


We can’t speak for everyone in Evanston but we've certainly heard from many, many customers who are still reeling from the tragedy. Our staff decided early on that we wanted to take some kind of useful action to help our neighbors, and on July 9th we began collecting donations at our registers for the Highland Park Community Foundation’s July 4th Shooting Response Fund. We raised $500 for the fund, which we have contributed to them.


We are not going to make a public statement on this subject by sharing it on social media, because we believe that this, too, would amplify an association between a guiltless, fun, fictional character who should remain the property of the children who enjoy him and not be co-opted by the evil of a person who has already ruined so much for so many.


However, if you would like to share all or any part of this statement privately with anyone else who may have concerns about our decision, we welcome your doing that.


We thank you for understanding our position, and we wish everyone in our community ongoing peace, kindness, and healing.