Mascot brings a smile to childrens’ faces



By Morgan Eads

[email protected]

Many of the children at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital could use a smile.

The hospital’s mascot, a wildcat kitten named Stitches, does its best to provide a little joy to the kids who are patients in the UK Healthcare system, as well as children at certain events around the state.

Tryouts were held Sunday to choose the next lead mascot to play Stitches.

There were five applicants to try out for the role of Stitches. A lead mascot and an apprentice were chosen.

Allison Brown, kinesiology sophomore, was picked as the lead mascot, and Jahanna Wazir, human nutrition junior, was named the apprentice.

“I had a dream of being a mascot in high school but wasn’t able to do it,” Brown said.

Though she has not been a mascot before, Brown thinks her experience working with children and outgoing nature will help her in playing Stitches.

She believes the role will help her gain insight into the university.

“I’m excited about getting to know a different side of UK,” Brown said. “I think it will open a lot of new doors and my eyes to a new perspective.”

Wazir will also visit the children in the Kentucky Children’s Hospital and clinic, as well as going to the events Brown is unable to attend.

“I’m really excited to interact with the children,” Wazir said. “They really light up when they see (Stitches).”

She thinks her willingness to talk to strangers and understanding of children will aid her in cheering up the young patients.

The person who plays Stitches has to be quick on their feet, said Cynde Estep, product line manager senior of UK Healthcare.

Estep has been involved with the Stitches mascot since its beginning in 2008.

As a mascot, Stitches has been around since fall of 2008, but as an illustration he has been around for longer, she said.

But what does it take to be the mascot of a hospital?

Creativity, patience and quick thinking are vital, said Cory Allen, kinesiology senior and current Stitches mascot.

“You become a different person for a few hours,” he said.

When children are frightened of Stitches or try to get the mascot to remove his disguise, a quick reaction is sometimes necessary.

Stitches is very successful at cheering up the patients, according to Allen.

Some of the children at the hospital adore the kitten, he said.

One child told Allen he wanted to be Stitches when he grew up and had learned the dances, while another calls himself Stitches’ biggest fan.

The job does come with a few disadvantages.

For one, the temperatures inside the costume can soar 40-60 degrees higher than the temperatures outside, he said.

Even with the drawbacks, the job is well worth it.

“I’ve seen kids go from being miserable and crying, to smiling like it’s their birthday,” Allen said.