Groups get sandy for charity

If you’re strolling down Ocean Beach on Saturday and come across a giant frog with a beaming grin on its face, don’t be alarmed.

The happy amphibian is likely the creation of a team of sand-crafting enthusiasts drawn to the beach for the 26th annual Sandcastle Contest, an event sponsored by Leap, a nonprofit organization that supports creative and visual arts programs for schools in the Bay Area.

The granular-based concoctions on Ocean Beach will hardly be the result of traditional pail and shovel efforts, with teams — some with as many as 100 participants — getting a 20-by-20 plot to craft their masterpieces, according to Leap Executive Director Julie McDonald.

The participating groups are typically comprised of a mix of students and professionals from various design and education groups, such as architecture firms, schools and nonprofit organizations. The squads are responsible for fundraising for the event and each team must raise at least $2,500 to pay for the entry fee, McDonald said.

Last year’s event raised a record $250,000 for Leap programs, which are used by 25 schools and 6,500 students in the Bay Area. So far, 22 teams have signed up for this year’s Sandcastle Contest, which is expected to raise $200,000, according to McDonald.

That money will fund the array of programs sponsored by Leap, which was founded in 1979.

Traditionally, each Sandcastle Contest has a theme. This year’s emphasis will be on classic children’s tales, McDonald said. Entries will be judged on adherence to the theme, use of imagination and involvement of children.

With 400 square feet to work with and months of preparation on their side, the groups are likely to produce a fully formed piece of art.

“You see some pretty elaborate designs out there,” McDonald said. “All you need at the very basic level to build a sandcastle is your hands, but these teams tend to go above and beyond basic.”

The contest will last from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ocean Beach, just south of the Cliff House.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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