Marybeth Connelly

"We needed a hippo-sized mascot face mask, so I made one." Happy Birthday, Danny!
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Mt. Daniel Elementary mascot Danny the Purple Hippo

Last week I did something new—I sewed a giant face mask for Danny the Purple Hippo’s mascot costume. In my community outreach job for Falls Church City Public Schools there are often unexpected opportunities to bring people together, but this one tops the list! We needed a hippo-sized mascot face mask, so I made one.

Over the years, as “Mascot Wrangler,” I’ve developed a motherly affection for the giant, furry, sweaty costumes. There are five schools and five mascots: Gertie Giraffe, Danny the Hippo, TJ Tiger, Tito the Henderson Husky and Mustang Sally. As a quintet, they make all-star appearances in the Falls Church Memorial Day Parade, the Falls Church Education Foundation Run for the Schools, and at occasional football games. Excitement radiates from children when they spy their school mascot up close.

Every April, Mt. Daniel Elementary celebrates Danny’s birthday with gusto. Class parties feature hippo-shaped cookies and purple ice cream, along with hippo games and crafts. At the school-wide assembly,  students sing Danny songs, and our Danny mascot makes his only school-day appearance, modeling appropriate school behavior.

Faced with the challenge of celebrating Danny’s birthday this year, our resilient teachers created activities that students can do at home and hang in windows. I was unreasonably excited when they asked me to help them make it a community-wide event. Families and teachers sent in photos of vintage Danny parties for a virtual party. Lazy Mike’s is making purple ice cream for at-home celebrations.

A video starring Mt. Daniel Principal Tim Kasik includes a surprise appearance by Danny and doubles as a social-distancing PSA. In the birthday video, Mr. Kasik and Danny stay six feet apart, greet each other with virtual high-fives and wear their masks.

Mr. Kasik brought his own mask. I’m proud to say the homemade hippo-sized mask fits Danny perfectly!

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