Deep in the woods of Alabama lives a squirrel…but not just any squirrel – SHORT the Squirrel! SHORT is a mascot created by Monica Anderson Young and Dee Bennett, sorority sisters who came together with a common goal. Monica and Dee met in college and became lifelong friends – now passion project partners. They run Literacy for Young Citizens in Alabama. In February of 2020, they contacted Olympus looking to purchase a custom mascot costume and bring their book character SHORT to life.
Rather than using the mascot to add to their marketing strategy, SHORT was the strategy. SHORT came to be when Monica’s daughter, an Assistant DA, recognized that many of the kids in court waiting rooms had nothing to while waiting, as electronics are not allowed. Monica and Dee saw this as an opportunity to turn Alabama’s reading scores around and bring together education and fun. Thus, SHORT was born! He started out as a “short” little activity sheet for kids to have fun doing while in waiting rooms. These activity sheets were designed to be fun while also educating children and helping them learn how to read. SHORT has three different “short” activity books featuring him: “SHORT in Court”, “SHORT Gets Sick”, and “SHORT Recycles”. Each of the books covers a different, but important, topic designed to educate children.
The Powerful Influence of Mascots
Monica and Dee use SHORT to bring as much awareness as they can to promoting the importance of literacy. They knew that using a character as cute as SHORT would be the perfect way to encourage children to learn how to read – and they were right. In the picture below, Monica recalls the story behind it: “We were doing an event in rural – and I mean rural – Alabama, and this little fella came and he RAN towards SHORT and threw his little body around SHORT and said, ‘I’m reading every night because you told me to!’ And that’s why we’re doing it”.
This is a great example of how powerful mascots can be in spreading awareness, especially today. Mascots are more than just the face of your brand or mission – they can be one of the most powerful resources in your marketing strategy.
Mascots Band Together
In Alabama, where they’re “a little crazy” about sports, every sports team and university has a mascot. Monica and Dee saw this as the perfect opportunity to bring more hype to SHORT and their mission. In SHORT’s birthday video, Monica and Dee enlisted the help of other famous mascots around Alabama to wish SHORT a happy birthday and get in on encouraging kids to read. Kids not only got to have fun with SHORT, but they got to listen to some of their other favorite mascots as well!
Check out SHORT’s birthday party video below.
While SHORT is the face of the mission and Monica and Dee are the brains behind the operation, none of their success would be possible without the incredible volunteers from all around Alabama. They have over 100 people volunteering for them, from grandparents in assisted living to teachers to university students – and that has been the most surprising thing out of all of this. They never anticipated that college-aged students would love SHORT as much as they do, but they welcome it with open arms. Not only do they have undergraduates and graduates getting involved with internships, but they partner with universities to host literacy kit stuffing events – and the students have so much fun volunteering with SHORT (some dance parties have even broken out)! SHORT is proving that mascots are for people of all ages!
As you can imagine, SHORT is in very high demand at schools around Alabama. He attends plenty of events throughout the year and Monica and Dee love to bring awareness to SHORT and their mission. What better way to do that than through social media? SHORT is very active on social media, and you can keep up with his squirrelly adventures on Instagram and Facebook!
Create a persona for your mascot before it is even made. It will make it much easier to create a mascot costume and instruct mascot performers!
Invest in the ice pack and head fan, especially if you live in a place with warmer weather. Keep your mascot performer cool!
If your mascot is for a non-profit organization, you’d be amazed by how many people will get involved. Just ask!