Tadpole to 15K— a big year for a little frog

Wilson the frog had had a long day. The sixteen inch-tall Spring Green Frog, along with his caregiver and translator CHS senior Kay Oken, had just gotten off an Instagram livestream and their voices were hoarse after answering questions from some of Wilson’s fifteen thousand fans. Yet another media interview would be enough to tire out even the toughest toad, but Wilson and Oken were more than happy to sit down with the Wolfpacket to answer questions surrounding Wilson’s fame, romance, and dreams for the future.

Wilson was dressed in his trademark blue overalls, complete with a pin on each lapel, one a Garfield and one a rainbow flag. As he and Oken spoke, their emotional connection was immediately evident. I asked how the two had met and Oken related the heart-warming story.

Wilson in his signature outfit. (Kay Oken)

“I stumbled across an account called @dailyspringgreenfrogs that specifically posted pictures of the Build-a-Bear Spring Green Frog,” Oken said. “I’m someone who’s always been super-attached to stuffed animals, so the instant I saw this stuffed frog I fell in love and I had to have one.”

However, the hunt for Oken’s perfect animal companion proved to be more challenging than anticipated. Wilson was a late-blooming tadpole and was born out of season in September as opposed to spring, Build-a-Bear’s usual frog-selling season. But the moment the FedEx truck dropped him off it was love at first sight. After bonding with Wilson, who was named after the Hozier song “Jackie and Wilson,” Oken began to contemplate starting their own frog account similar to the ones that had brought Wilson into their life in the first place.

“I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to do this for me,’” Oken said. “I’m going to do it because it’s fun and I want to engage more in this wholesome frog community. And I did and it’s probably the best decision I ever made.”

While Oken’s only goal in starting the account was to become more connected to the stuffed-animal Instagram community, Wilson’s account (@timetofrog) quickly gained popularity and the five month-old amphibian is currently sitting at over fifteen thousand followers.

“It’s almost like there are prominent plushies that rise to fame,” Oken said. “So there is the Build-A-Bear Spring Green Frog, there is the Pillow-Pets Strawberry Cow, and then there is the Tiny Headed Kingdom ‘Pip,’ which is a bear with a tiny head. And I own all three, which is how I think I’ve been able to accumulate stuffed animal clout, for lack of a better term.”

In a time when many have been forced inside and away from the usual joys of human interaction, these positive animal accounts are a ray of sunshine in the lives of many, humans and frogs alike. For instance, every day on his Instagram, Wilson shares some hopeful words to brighten the hearts of his followers.

“Sitting in the sunshine! Thankful for all the little wonders that nature provides.” Wilson said on a recent post while sitting in a dark blue lawn chair with his little brother.

And if that post is any evidence, Wilson’s rise to Instagram stardom has not stopped him from living a humble and grounded lifestyle. He is a morning frog, and starts each day with a hot homemade latte. His favorite pastimes include reading, studying poetry, and embroidering. He values family time, and enjoys hanging out with his boyfriend as well as his sister and brother, Mitskiv and Legs. Each night he watches TV with Oken and then cuddles up in his very own frog blanket on the right side of Oken’s bed. While Wilson and his boyfriend (whose name the Wolfpacket is withholding to protect his privacy) have chosen to keep the majority of their relationship private, followers have fallen in love with the couple and adore seeing the occasional Instagram photo of the two sharing a hug or kiss—which they manage despite their drastically different head sizes.

Oken and Wilson. (Kay Oken)

“It’s important for Wilson that everyone out there knows that love is waiting for them,” Oken translated. “So his relationship is definitely something that he likes to share online.”

With the growing promise of life returning to normalcy, Oken and Wilson hope to continue to expand their Instagram presence. And along with dreams of new photo locations and road trips, the frog-human duo also can’t help but wonder if a plushie or Build-a-Bear sponsorship lies in their future. However, despite the account’s sudden success, Wilson and Oken have stayed true to their community’s roots: spreading wholesome messages of kindness to whatever animal needs to hear it.

As our interview came to a close, I asked Oken to translate a message from Wilson, and despite our language barrier, I could hear the sincerity in his croak.

“You are loved and there is a place in this big pond for all of us,” Wilson said. “The water is deep and wide, and sometimes it’s a lot, but it’s important to not only go with the currents, but to find the calm spots that do exist because we are here together and there is love in this pond.”