As the autumnal equinox turned the calendar from summer to fall, it was a reminder to Catherine Ladd, a mother of four, to consult with her children on what they wanted to be for Halloween. Sure, Catherine had about 35 days before Halloween, but she is a planner and not a procrastinator. Her older sons wanted to be Washington Nationals players like Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, and then after some brainstorming the ideas got bolder with the kids wanting to be “Racing Presidents“. Mom got to work on research and development thinking she could create the presidents in sizes to fit 4 foot tall boys who weigh about 70 pounds.
Catherine Ladd is from Missouri and her husband, Scott Ladd, is from Potomac, Maryland. They grew up liking other teams, but when Washington got the Nationals in 2005, their allegiances changed to the Nats and when they had children, they became rabid Nats fans also and it became a family thing.
YouTube videos on the papier-mâché process became her basic training for this gigantic Halloween endeavor. How many people back in elementary school did papier-mâché on top of balloons to make pint-sized heads? For this project, Catherine had to think much larger and scale it to fit a 10-year-old. She used those giant sized yoga balls to create the basic shape of the heads. Ladd studied as an interior designer specializing in commercial architecture so she had some artistic background to pull this off and have enough confidence to move forward.
“I designed all 7 heads in all. Stephanie Todd made Screech and I made the others with a little help from the other parents and the kids,” Catherine Ladd said. “As for time… Yes, most of the time working on these fell between the hours of 9pm to 3am (depending on how tired I was)… It was easier to work on them once the kids were asleep…”
As for how long each presidential head took…
“It varied per head and these are approximate… Teddy/ Taft that weren’t as complex took about 12 hrs each… Abe took the longest…20’ish hrs, George: 18 hrs, Tom: 15 (I had figured out how to do the hair by doing George so his went faster)… Herbie: 15… I worked on some at the same time in different phases… Some of the parents and kids helped at the end to paint some of the base paint colors and I went back to add details, etc…”
The end results were magnificent and the boys got the surprise of their lives when the Nats Racing Presidents and Screech showed up at their Abingdon Elementary school unbeknownst to the kids and the students . The boys had no idea that Valerie Camillo and Tom Davis of the Nationals had arranged for this. Not only did the Nats show up at their school, there should be an encore performance at Nats Park where the kids will take the field during a game with the “big” presidents during the 2018 season.
A visionary mother made this into a reality and the kids want to pay-it-forward and make some hospital appearances to visit sick kids at either Children’s Hospital or Inova Hospital. The kids have some free time as their Arlington Little League team’s fall season just ended. Sources tell us that these boys are really good baseball players!
The Little Presidents as they are referred to now include the original Mt. Rushmore of George, Tom, Abe and Teddy and in order to include their friends they unretired “Herbie” Hoover and “Bill” Taft plus they added Little Screech. The seven kids from Fairlington who wore the heads are Catherine’s two oldest sons, Andrew (10-years-old) was Teddy and Matthew (8-years-old) was Abe, and their friends José was Screech, Beau was George, Joseph was Tom, Ryan was Herbie, and Owen was Bill Taft.
“There’s something in all of us to want to create,” Ladd said. “I find a lot of fulfillment and joy in creating. Every step I was nervous.”
The creative process did have some trial and error. There were no patterns to make these. It was make them as you go. The acrylic paint process at least allowed for mistakes to be painted over. The last step was to weatherproof each head with shellac and a final coat.
The end results are these presidential heads are works of art that can bring much joy in the future. They are beautiful and unique and the Little Presidents are now a part of Nationals history, and the future is bright for these seven young boys who have big plans thanks to an ordinary woman, Catherine Ladd, who did extraordinary things.