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9-26-19 — Children Acquire Community Spirit as Bleacher Creatures

Sept. 26, 2019 ~ There’s a phrase often heard among graduates of a certain high school: “Once an eagle, always an eagle.” Apparently, the community atmosphere that comes from graduating from Olathe North High School can begin before children enter elementary school.

The Bleacher Creatures program at Olathe North attempts to build community and school spirit by connecting with children from age 3 through fifth grade who will someday attend Olathe’s original high school. Bleacher Creatures celebrates its 10th year of building excitement and a sense of community.

“The Bleacher Creature idea was born out of my days at Pittsburg State University,” said Pete Flood, Olathe North secondary defensive coach for football. He and Denise Herman, now assistant principal at Oregon Trail Middle School, started the program.

“It was created to get young kids excited about coming to Olathe North, and give families with younger children a means of cutting costs to attend games,” Flood said. “We just hoped it would get folks involved with Olathe North, and I think that was accomplished. I know the kids loved it and would be hustling into the stadium on Friday nights.”

For a fee, each young participant receives a program T-shirt, admittance to all varsity home games (with their district activity pass), and a chance to interact with “the big kids” at high school. In addition to future North eagles, the program is open to children and grandchildren of current Olathe North staff.

At football games, the Bleacher Creatures line up by the tunnel where players run out. At the announcement “Here come the Bleacher Creatures!” the youngsters run through the tunnel and get in line with the band and cheerleaders. After the players are announced, they escort the “creatures” back to the stands where parents pick them up to find their seats for the game.

Cheerleader Maddy Tyson said she really enjoyed being with the children, clapping to the fight song and seeing the kids get high fives from the football players.

Bleacher Creature sponsor Stevie Less, is a resource paraeducator at North and mother of two sons who have participated in the program.

“My older son was a player and the younger one was a ‘creature,’” she said. “My older son would make sure he high-fived his little brother. Of course, the younger brother thought he was so cool for getting that high five.”

The purpose of the Bleacher Creatures program is to build community involvement through these brief, but special relationships between older and younger students.

“The creatures are usually in awe of the big kids,” Less said. “They can’t wait to become an eagle. The older kids are usually on their best behavior and setting great examples.”

Olathe North teacher Colleen Farthing said her sons are proud to represent North, even if they live in another city.

“My 9-year-old wears his Bleacher Creature shirt every week,” she said. “In fact, he wore it for his school picture (in another district.) The high schoolers treated the younger kids like siblings. They bent down and talked to them, held their hands, and made them feel a part of everything.”

“We have hundreds of students who live in the North feeder pattern, who are excited to be eagles as a result of being a former Bleacher Creature,” co-founder Denise Herman said.

Olathe West High School, the district’s newest high school, started a similar program this year. The O-Dub Club is for elementary boys and girls to participate in the spirit surrounding football, soccer, volleyball and basketball games.

photo of children participating in Bleacher Creatures program