From the Mascot Bowl to Christmas presents: how Herriman High students stepped up in 2019Dec 19, 2019 09:41AM ● By Stephanie Yrungaray
A boy sneaks in a hug with Santa on the way to buses for the Christmas Hugs shopping event. (Stephanie Yrungaray/City Journals)
By Stephanie Yrungaray | [email protected]
On the morning of Dec. 14, a special shopping trip at the Riverton Walmart was the culmination of thousands of hours of volunteer work. More than 100 children going through hard times were able to buy Christmas gifts as part of an annual Firemen and Friends for Kids, Christmas Hugs event. This year, student volunteers from Herriman High School were able to play a very important part in raising money for the shopping trip as well as participating in it.
The Firemen and Friends for Kids Foundation has organized Christmas shopping trips for underprivileged kids for the last 31 years. 18 years ago, the man behind the Jazz Bear, Jon Absey came up with a unique fundraising idea for the Christmas Hugs shopping trips: a mascot bowl. For the past 17 years, an annual mascot bowl was held in Lehi to raise money for Christmas shopping, but in June, Absey told Herriman High Assistant Principal Lynn Allred the event was Herriman High’s if they wanted it.
“We were waiting in the wings until the time was right and this summer [Absey] said ‘This is your time.’” Allred said. “The Mascot Bowl is a big production, so before I committed to Jon I went to the student body officers and cheerleaders and asked if they thought it was something they could make happen. They said, ‘Not a problem, give us a challenge,’ and boy did they come through.”
The Mascot Bowl
With about three months to pull together an event that most of them had never attended, Herriman High administrators, staff and students had to work overtime to plan and arrange all of the components of a successful mascot bowl.
Herriman High Counselor and SBO advisor Michael Wilkey said they tried to divide up the tasks between the four different student government positions of vice presidents, presidents, service, and spirit.
“We had different groups taking care of on-field entertainment, food trucks, parking, the car show, mascots and celebrities and advertising,” Wilkey said. “We divided it a lot of different ways and things changed but they were able to pull it all together.”
Matt Jones, Herriman High School senior class senator said the event was a lot more work than they had expected.
“We worked on it straight for three months,” Jones said. “We had to start hitting up businesses and spreading the word. We went to every single business in Herriman and we tried to get so many things to make it unique. But it was all worth it.”
“My friends and I have seventh period for student government,” said Abby King SBO assemblies sfficer. “There were so many countless days we were at the school late trying to figure out how to run things. We had to figure out where in the building we could host all of the people like mascots and dance teams and our main job was getting kids to come to help us and come support the event.”
Senior Class President Cooper Page was one of the students put in charge of food trucks. They negotiated a percentage of profits to go towards the fundraiser.
“I helped a lot with food truck coordinating and planning, including figuring out everything location-wise,” Page said. “Some of the food trucks gave us $100 upfront and some of them donated 15-20% of their profit. They all gave us something.”
Absey used his friendships and connections to secure the mascots to play in the bowl.
“We had 25 mascots, half local and half pro,” Absey said. “They all volunteered their time.”
Herriman High Principal Todd Quarnberg said he was shocked at how many mascots from around the country traveled to Herriman for the charity event.
“We had the bigs from the NBA, the NHL, the colleges as well in-state mascots,” Quarnberg said. “I was shocked that Jon was able to get so many great mascots. I don’t know how he did it.”
Quarnberg said while the student body officers and cheerleaders played a large part in the organization of the bowl, for the actual event they also needed the help of student leaders from clubs.
“We pulled in all of the club leaders,” Quarnberg said. “All of the kids went to their areas worked that day. The mascot bowl was our entire campus. There wasn’t one inch that wasn’t being used to host this event.”
The mascot bowl was held on Sept. 23 and the event raised over $12,000 from ticket sales, raffles and donations. 100% of the profit from the event went towards providing a Christmas Hugs Shopping trip for 113 local kids.
“A lot of people give money to charities but it doesn’t stay in the community, it goes elsewhere,” Absey said. “Firemen and Friends for Kids was put together by people who want to do good. We are a small charity, when you give us $100 dollars, $100 dollars goes to the kids.”
The mascot bowl was a huge learning opportunity for the students who organized it, primarily the Herriman High Student Body Officers and the cheerleaders.
“It was a lot of work but it was good for our students to be a part of,” said Wilkey, the SBO advisor who worked with the student volunteers. “It gave them confidence that they can do really big things. Everything from charity and service to logistically learning how to put all the moving parts together to make it work. To be able to do something like that at the beginning of the year gives [SBO] a lot of confidence heading into the rest of the year.”
Firemen and Friends for Kids President, Eldon Farnsworth, said the event makes the teen volunteers more aware and empowered.
“Probably the most important thing is for them to know there are people in need all around us,” Farnsworth said. “Being able to help people is probably the most amazing part of what we do.”
From the beginning of planning for the mascot bowl, Herriman High Students knew that they would get to be a part of the actual shopping event in December.
At 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, hundreds of students showed up at the school to volunteer as chaperones and helpers for the recipients of the Firemen and Friends for Kids Christmas Hugs shopping trip.
The children were recommended for the special shopping trip by principals and teachers from the Jordan School District. Herriman High assistant principal Lynn Allred told the children they were specially chosen before they left to go shopping.
“You’ve been selected by your teachers, you’ve been selected by family members, you’ve been selected by the community as someone that is very much loved and shown a lot of courage and integrity,” Allred said. “This is our chance to pay back to you what you’ve done for us. Herriman high loves you and appreciates you.”
The student chaperones from Herriman High were nearly as excited as the younger kids for the shopping trip.
“I’ve been excited about this for a long time,” said Jones, as he waited with friends to direct children and their families towards the gym. “This is the day where the hard work pays off so to speak. We are so excited.”
“I didn’t know there were so many families that we get to help,” Page said. “It’s one thing seeing the money we raised, but seeing this many people here is a totally cool thing.”
After breakfast provided by Arctic Circle and entertainment by special guest mascots, Santa Claus and “The Voice” contestant Aaliyah Rose, two or three Herriman High students were paired with each child.
The children and students loaded up into buses and were escorted to Walmart by the Herriman Police Department and Unified Fire Authority firefighters from Herriman.
At the store there was no shortage of smiles as the kids got to choose $85 worth of items.
Darin Brady’s daughter, 5-year-old Maren chose a Paw Patrol watch and was looking for a special horse to bring home. The Brady family has a 9-month-old son Gideon who is battling Neuroblastoma brain cancer. Darin said they were very grateful that their family was chosen to participate in the shopping trip.
“We were blown out of the water,” Brady said. “Gideon just finished his eighth round of treatment and we found out this week that we can move from active cancer treatments to just monitoring him. We are so excited about that and [this shopping trip] is just one more thing to be grateful for.”
Ten-year-old Carson was having lots of fun shopping with three Herriman High student helpers. He chose a Chewbacca bobblehead toy, a basketball, a Harry Potter book and a Christmas DVD for his family to watch. His favorite part of the event was “just walking around with his new friends.”
One of Carson’s new buddies, Herriman High senior Boston Cordero said Carson was a good example to him.
“He has been thinking about other people the whole time he’s been shopping,” Cordero said. “He’s been talking about what to buy his family and his friends.”
Firemen and Friends for Kids President Farnsworth said kids acting selflessly is very common at these shopping events.
“A lot of the kids buy for their family members,” Farnsworth said. “They know their family won’t get much for Christmas and these kids are so happy they can help their families and be a part of that.”
Both Farnsworth and Absey said these shopping trips are their favorite part of the holiday season.
“I’ve got a big soft spot for Christmas and kids,” Absey said. “I want kids to know that there are people out there looking out for them and we want them to have a good Christmas,”
“It is so rewarding to see the faces of the kids and how happy they are,” Farnsworth said.
The high school student volunteers agreed that all of the long hours of putting together the mascot bowl paid off big time.
“Seeing the kids shopping and seeing the glow in their eyes is the coolest part,” said Sydney Reading, Senior SBO service officer.
Administrators and students say they are excited to work on next year’s mascot bowl fundraiser and hope it will grow bigger and better each year, increasing the number of underprivileged kids who get to benefit from the event.
Principal Quarnberg said his students’ hard work and willingness to help should give hope to anyone worried about the future.
“They’ve taught an old man how great this generation is,” Quarnberg said. “These kids do what they should do; they step up to the plate to serve. I don’t think anybody should worry about this generation. It is innate with them to step up and help somebody else. It sounds unbelievable but mark my words it is impressive.”