The design of 17-year-old Centreville resident Ryleigh O’Connor is the new logo of Dowd’s Crowd, which provides opportunity for autistic children to be able to attend Capitals games.
O’Connor’s design was selected by the Dowds out of almost 100 submissions.
“It was really challenging for Paige and I to select our winning puzzle piece. We had so many great submissions,” says Nic. “We selected this specific one, by Ryleigh, because we felt it did an excellent job representing Dowd’s Crowd’s overall goal by tying in a mantra that is so well known in the autism community.”
When the Capitals announced the winner on May 21, through their social media platforms, the 11th grader had no idea she was going to win. “My youngest sister barged into my room and yelled, ‘Ryleigh you won!’,” O’Connor explains. “My mom had found out by seeing it on the Capitals’ Facebook page. We’re a big family of seven so it was plenty loud in our house as we celebrated.”
In O’Connor’s design, there are multiple inspirations from different aspects seen in the autism community. This includes the blue, red and yellow colors seen throughout, the common phrase “Different Not Less” and the puzzle piece pattern that represents autism awareness.
O’Connor’s winning design will be featured on the drawstring bags of the Dowd’s Crowd sensory kits, which are given to children who attend a Capitals game through the program. As the winner, O’Connor will also receive 10 drawstring bags, four tickets to a future Capitals game and a meet-and-greet with the Dowds, which is something she is looking forward to next season.
“I’m looking forward to expressing my thanks not only for what [Nic Dowd] does as a Capitals player but also for what he and his wife do for the community through programs like Dowd’s Crowd,” she says.
The Dowds mirrored the sentiment, with Nic saying, “We want to thank Ryleigh for entering such amazing artwork and thank everyone who participated! Dowd’s Crowd’s mission is about community and bringing everyone together, whether it’s at the rink or away from it!”
For more Northern Virginia news, profiles and more, subscribe to our weekly newsletters.