Mascots from Orlando and across the country were united at the 23rd Annual Mascot Games at the Amway Center on Friday.
Twenty-three mascots from the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS and NCAA participated in the competition, just days after the massacre of 49 people at Pulse nightclub.
“It’s been a horrible tragedy the last week or so here in Orlando,” event coordinator Lynn Hoppes said. “It’s an opportunity to be able to sit there and try to bring some normalcy back to the community.”
Among the 11,000 fans in attendance, youth camps from across the country packed the Amway Center to cheer on their favorite mascots.
“It was great,” said Tim Stanley, a 12-year-old 6th grader from Lake Nona. “All of my friends liked it and it was very funny.”
The wacky challenges consisted of an Obstacle Course, Musical Chairs, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Gladiator Duel. The mascots were split into four teams and the blue team proved to be victorious.
UCF’s very own Knightro was a participant and held his own against mascots such as N.J. Devil of the New Jersey Devils, Champ of the Dallas Mavericks and Rowdy of the Dallas Cowboys. University of Florida mascots Albert and Albert also joined the game, along with a slew of Orlando hometown favorites, including Orlando City Soccer’s Kingston, Shades of the Orlando Solar Bears and Stuff the Magic Dragon of the Magic.
“[Knightro] did well today,” said Dave Joswick, executive director for New Hope for Kids. “Knightro made the rounds with me … I’ve probably been closer to him than any mascot this year. He’s all fired up.”
Knightro and the other mascots visited the Florida Hospital for Children to spread joy to the patients leading up to the Mascot Games.
The proceeds from the Mascot Games will benefit New Hope for Kids, which provides support to children and families grieving the death of a loved one, and grants wishes to children with life-threatening illness in Central Florida.
“We at New Hope for Kids want the Mascot Games to be a community event,” Joswick said. “It’s unique to the extent that the mascots don’t participate in games like this anywhere else in the country. There’s gathering of mascots, but nothing like the Mascot Games.”
The Mascot Games almost did not take place in the wake of the recent tragedies.
“It was a challenging week with this tragic event last Saturday night,”Joswick said. “We had to reassure the camps that security was going to be secure. That none of these kids were gonna be put in any harm’s way whatsoever, and judging from the yelling and some of the kids I talked to — had a great time, had a super time.”
Jean Racine is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @jeangracine or email him at JeanR@CentralFloridaFuture.com