Tiger tale grabs global headlines

(June 18, 2015) - A local boy’s stuffed tiger and his adventures at Tampa International Airport have gone viral.

Since posting a story about the misplaced tiger’s travels through the Airport last week, the tale has crossed the globe, roaring to life on social media and the mainstream press. Tony D'Aiuto with the Hobbes book

The story began with a frantic call to Tampa International’s Lost and Found department on a Saturday morning. A 6-year-old boy traveling to Houston with his parents, had left behind his favorite stuffed tiger. After a janitorial services crew found the toy near the children’s play area at Airside C, AOC Manager Tony D’Aiuto had an idea. Why not take the tiger on a tour while he awaits his owner’s return? D’Auito, with the help of employees all over the airport campus, photographed Hobbes on his great adventures: outside by the air traffic control tower, buying gelato, working out at the employee gym, playing Jenga in the USO, hanging out with the firefighters, napping in a hammock by the Marriott pool, riding a luggage cart. D’Aiuto made  a photo book and left it in Lost and Found for the family to pick up along with the beloved stuffed animal when they returned to Tampa International Airport on a late-night flight on June 11.

Airport staff posted the story on Facebook on Monday. By Thursday morning, a record-setting 100,000-plus people had liked, shared or commented on the Facebook post and another 19,000 had seen the Airport’s tweet about the tiger. Roughly 64,000 people visited TampaAirport.com to view the full story, making it the busiest page on the website over that period.

Thousands of others tweeted out links about the story, gushing support for the feel-good story and the Airport. They commended Airport staff for the exceptional customer service. Many said the story brought tears to their eyes.

“What an adorable idea,” one woman tweeted.

“Big shout out to Tampa International,” another said. “It’s comforting you understand the value of a handmade friend.”

“This is great,” one wrote. “There is some faith in humanity left.”

The story sprinted through the national and international media, with many interviewing D'Aiuto.

In just a couple days, the story appeared in all the local print and media outlets. It was featured on such national outlets as Good Morning America, Time, People, NPR, Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, CNN, New York Daily News, Yahoo Parenting, in addition to numerous affiliated sites. It made the rounds on news sites based in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

In Germany, a headline read: “Stoff-tiger Hobbes erlebt witziges abenteuer.” Loosely translated, that means: “Fabric tiger Hobbes experienced funny adventure.”

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