Mascots, Friends Dunk Their Way into Children’s Hearts
Jun 09, 2016 10:59AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch
Mascots and members of the Utah Jazz dunk team pose with the Utah Rush basketball team during the Pep Rally at Murray High School on April 23. – Jay Alldredge
Gallery: Mascots, Friends Dunk Their Way into Children’s Hearts [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Travis Barton | firstname.lastname@example.org
Angels and heroes come in all shapes and sizes, but dimensions don’t contain children’s’ joy.
Smiles were aplenty as Mascots provided laughs and memories for kids at the Mascot Miracle Foundation (MMF) Pep Rally on Saturday, April 23 at Murray High School.
Founded in 2013 by Rich and Trina Ellis, MMF is a non-profit organization that aims to create smiles by putting on events with mascots for children with serious health conditions or special needs.
“We get to see these kids just enjoy life,” Trina said. “They go through a lot of horrible things and to give them a time where they can forget about the things that they go through and bond with these mascots…to be able to see that, the rush is incredible, I can’t explain it.”
Angels of the foundation refers to those “who earned their wings too soon,” while the Heroes are kids still fighting.
Trina said even when Heroes transition to become Angels, they’re still a part of MMF.
“Once part of MMF family, always a part of MMF family,” Trina said.
“We’re just trying to serve as many Heroes as we can…we treasure every moment” Rich said
The pep rally not only saw multiple mascots come to interact with the over 500 people in attendance, but the audience also got to witness unique talent that Utah has to offer.
Emceed by Grant Weyman of KSL, the event included performances from the Utah Jazz Dunk Team, the Utah Rush wheelchair basketball team, Elite Angels Cheer Team and singer Ashlund Jade.
“A committee member had this idea and that’s really how we create these magical moments, people come up with an idea and we’ll never pass an opportunity inviting our heroes to an event,” Trina said.
The evening opened and closed with the Dunk Team demonstrating their skills that involved a volunteer from the crowd providing a no-look alley-oop pass to a member of the team as well as jumping over a group consisting of mascots and volunteers.
“Three different times we got to get people involved, it was just an amazing time,” Matt Griff, a member of the Dunk Team, said.
Griff said the experience brought smiles to the team just as much to the crowd.
“This stuff is easy to smile at; at Jazz games we have to worry about being entertainers, here we’re just dudes that want to be here as much as people in the stands,” Griff said.
The Dunk Team normally performs at events like Jazz home games and school assemblies. Griff said it was special being one of the main attractions for an event that gave them the opportunity to do something for others.
“When we feel like we’re making somebody happy by making them laugh or making them smile, that’s the most important stuff to us,” Griff said.
The special needs Elite Angles Cheer Team also performed one of their signature routines for the crowd.
Ashlund Jade, a 13-year-old singer, actress and dancer who is featured on DreamworksTV with over 30 million views are her YouTube channel, sang three cover songs to the crowd including “Stand By You,” by Rachel Platten, a special song dedicated to the Heroes Jade brought down to the court.
The Utah Rush Basketball team, held a scrimmage displaying their abilities. Rush is a national junior wheelchair basketball team that consists of kids ages 12-18.
And the mascots were there through it all, whether it was having a dance off, joining the Dunk Team or simply hanging out with families in the crowd.
“These mascots are their best friends,” Trina said.
The mascots came from around the valley led by Felix the Falcon from MMF. It included mascots from high schools like Murray, Lehi and Copper Hills, Griff from Westminster College and even professional teams as Bumble from the Salt Lake Bees and Grizzbee from the Utah Grizzlies.
All of them came with the goal to make kids smile.
“Those smiles light us up and the more we see the smiles the more we wanna do, it’s definitely an adrenaline rush,” Rich said.
MMF is always looking for sponsors, event venues or donations to put these types of events on. The foundation is always looking for ways to help kids smile even carrying out wishes for them.
Some of the stories involve mascots go-karting with a 13-year-old with cancer or a terminally ill girl who had a Belle, from “Beauty and the Beast,” birthday party put on by the mascots.
“It’s whatever we can do,” Rich said.
To find out more about MMF, go to www.mascotmiraclefoundation.org.