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Jessica Gray takes a breather from perform-ing in her mascot costume at East Lawrence High School.
Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer
Jessica Gray takes a breather from perform-ing in her mascot costume at East Lawrence High School.

sweat, cheers,
and tears

Marcy’s legacy lives on through mascot camp at East Lawrence High

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

Some students prefer to stay in a dark, furry, warm environment, rather than spend all their time hanging out with friends at ball games.

They regularly climb into their school mascot costumes to entertain and whip up spirit.

These mascots, like the ones attending Marcy’s Mascot Clinic at East Lawrence High School, learn that “If the fur ain’t flyin’, you ain’t trying,” as the workbook of mascot tips in her memory says.

Marcy Melinda McCaghren was known for trying her best, whether she was in or out of costume as Mac the Eagle, East Lawrence’s mascot, or inside the head and body of Wally the Lion, the mascot for Wallace State Community College at Hanceville.

Though her enthusiasm for entertaining was snuffed out in a car wreck at 19, Marcy’s legacy lives on in the mascot world as those she trained now teach younger students. Most schools have only one or two mascots, and while they may be part of the cheerleading squad, they need training that’s a little different.

She started Marcy’s Mascot Clinic before she graduated from East Lawrence to make sure the program kept running smoothly and to pass along tips and the Mascot Commandments, such as “Constant motion is a must.”

Steven Stracener, the Wildcat mascot at Central High School in Florence now, is preparing to try out to be the lion at The University of North Alabama. “I like being able to be myself and do what I want to do, without a coach telling me to do this or that. I can take it easy and have fun and still be entertaining,” he said.
Steven Stracener, the Wildcat mascot at Central High School in Florence now, is preparing to try out to be the lion at The University of North Alabama. “I like being able to be myself and do what I want to do, without a coach telling me to do this or that. I can take it easy and have fun and still be entertaining,” he said.
Students from several counties brought their mascot heads and costumes to the East Lawrence gym recently for the clinic and talked about why they like being mascots.

“I love that I can get into the suit and be something different — and it’s fun,” said East Lawrence 10th-grader Jessica Gray, the school’s current eagle mascot. “Inside the suit, you’re free. And I love to dance.”

There are other advantages, too. Since she’s used to wearing a costume, she got the job playing the Easter bunny at Colonial Mall this spring.

Perhaps mascot mania is in the genes, because her mom, Donna Newman Gray, was East Lawrence’s first full-time mascot in 1988. Jessica said she’s proud to carry on the tradition after her mother and Marcy, her friend and neighbor.

Becky Lowery, a ninth-grader at East Lawrence, tried on one of the eagle suits for the first time at the clinic. As an eagle-in-training for cheerleader tryouts April 27, she hopes to start wearing the second eagle suit at games and events in the fall.

“I kind of want to learn to be out there,” she said, “because I’m really shy.”

Holly Gardner, 19, graduated from East Lawrence a year ago and attends Calhoun Community College. She wore the eagle suit after Marcy, and she took over leading the mascot workshop in Marcy’s memory.

Meanwhile, she’s got the best job in the world for a former school mascot: she works at Chick-fil-A, where she gets to wear the cow suit for appearances.

She’s pretty popular when she shows up dressed as a cow, with a tray of chicken nuggets in hand.

“Marcy was two years older than me, and she was my mentor. It’s harder than it looks, and when you are new at it, you need some pointers.

“Marcy put on this camp just for me the first year,” she recalled. “Later, when she went to Wallace State, she always offered assistance to me, even though I know she was very busy with school and work.”

“We’re trying to add a mascot, because it’s a big job for one person, with all the basketball and football games, plus special appearances and community service projects such as Relay for Life,” said Leah Hembree, cheerleading sponsor and library media specialist. She remembers Marcy as “a real bubbly person who was just a natural mascot and knew what to do.”

One highlight was when the East Lawrence teams made the 2005 regionals at Hanceville: Marcy, as the Wallace State mascot, and Holly, as the eagle, got out on the floor at halftime and had a dance-off.

“She had a loving heart, was full of life and loved kids,” co-sponsor Angie Bowen said. “She was a fine Christian young woman and a good role model.”

Any funds left over from the mascot camp go to a scholarship fund that will be given in Marcy’s memory on the school’s Awards Day.

Marcy’s Mascot Rules

Some of the tips Marcy McCaghren shared at the clinic she started:

  • Be a positive representative of your school

  • Never be rude to game officials

  • Never talk in costume unless it’s an emergency

  • Use polite and appropriate gestures

  • Never be a distraction during the national anthem

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