Being the Ohio Northern University mascot, Klondike, is such a closely guarded secret that not even the portrayer’s closest friends and family know the truth. A student Klondike is only allowed to reveal themselves upon graduating, so with Commencement right around the corner, we thought we’d help these students step out of the suit one final time and reveal themselves to some of their closest friends.
This year, only two seniors donned the Klondike suit: mechanical engineering major Luke Shellhaas and criminal justice major Addie Traylor. Both were initiated as Klondikes during their freshman years, so it’s safe to say the pair have seen and done it all as Klondike on campus.
“When I think back to when I got selected, I was like, ‘That’s freaking dope! I get to be Klondike for my four years here and have a sweet little secret to keep from all my friends,’” says Shellhaas.
While Shellhaas was able to pick up a few mascotting tips from his sister, who was their high school’s mascot, Traylor came into the job with years of experience herself from her time as the Seneca East Tiger mascot in high school. “Being a mascot is just a great way to have fun,” she says. “A lot of what I do here for school is serious, but when I put on the suit, everything is just fun. And being Klondike in particular is such an honor. It’s allowed me to meet so many people that I otherwise wouldn’t have formed relationships with. Everyone at ONU loves Klondike.”
For Shellhaas, the goofy nature of Klondike made it exciting to be in the suit, but it was the adrenaline rush he got from keeping the secret that he’ll remember most. “It’s not easy to transport that suit. It’s in a huge bag and if you get caught with it there isn’t really anything you can say. So I would wait for my friends to leave or go in another room and then I’d sprint to get away without being seen,” he says.
With their time in the suit now at its end, the two graduating seniors join a very select subset of ONU alumni for whom the hashtag #ForeverAPolarBear hits a bit different. When the University celebrates Klondike’s 100th birthday next year, we look forward to hearing from these alumni and their stories of Klondike through the years. In fact, if you are reading this and you are a former ONU mascot, please share your memories here.