Spotlights
Team BCPS gets its purple on
Ravens Caravan begins a new season of “Purple Friday” celebrations at two BCPS schools
09/05/2014

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The hardest decision 9-year-old Mason Beale had to make Friday morning was whether to dance like retired Ravens linebacker legend Ray Lewis or current Ravens star wide receiver Jacoby Jones.

To the delight of his cheering classmates at Warren Elementary School, Mason chose Jones’s “Dancing With the Stars”-inspired touchdown quick step. His star turn was part of the first Ravens Caravan “Purple Friday” visits to kick off the team’s 2014-15 season in Baltimore County’s public schools.

“It was so fun,” said Beale, a fourth-grader at Warren who himself was set to play in his first pee-wee football game of the season Friday night. “I was cool with (dancing) in front of my friends.” Mason also wanted to pass along a message to Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, who with the rest of his team is preparing for the Ravens’ first game of the year against Cincinnati on Sunday.

“Tell Torrey Smith hello for me,” Mason said. “He may not remember me, but I got his autograph after a game once.”

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Such was the excitement that swept over both Warren and, earlier, Padonia International Elementary School. Lured into each schools’ gymnasiums under the pretext of hearing their principals discuss safety drills and procedures, students roared with delight when the assemblies turned into pep rallies -- complete with Ravens cheerleaders, the Ravens marching band, two real-life ravens and team mascot Poe – for both the schools and their favorite, purple-clad NFL football team.

The Ravens Caravan has a long history of including BCPS schools on its annual itinerary throughout Ravens Nation, said Heather Darney, who coordinated the Padonia and Warren stops for the team. “We’re excited to be here, and it’s wonderful to be in Baltimore County,” she said as the day began at Padonia in Cockeysville. “It’s great to see the looks of surprise on the students’ faces when we come in.”

Darney said the caravan would return to elementary schools both in Baltimore County and those in neighboring counties as a way of celebrating fan support and creating enthusiasm for the season. She didn’t know which schools would be next, though visits will continue every “Purple Friday” throughout the season.

Padonia Principal Melissa DiDonato said the visit thrilled her students – once they figured out the ruse. “Only a few people knew; we had to keep it quiet,” she said of the surprise visit. She had to give up the “safety assembly” when band members began drumming an insistent tattoo coming down the school’s hallway. Soon, the gym was filled with twirling cheerleaders and a dancing Poe (who invited Mason Beale to dance with him), all set to a brassy Ravens fight song.

“Our students and staff were so excited to see that their ‘safety assembly’ was realy the Ravens’ Purple Friday caravan,” DiDonato said. “Students were saying, ‘This is the best day of my life,’ and during lunch they were still talking about the morning.”

The scene was repeated at Warren, where kindergartener Alyson Campbell stared wide-eyed throughout the 20-minute show. “I liked how the cheerleaders went up in the air,” she said, noting that some stunts had them almost touching the gymnasium ceiling.

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The morning assembly even impressed Alyson’s teacher, Jennifer Mileto, despite her choice of black-and-gold NFL attire for the day. “It was an awesome show, I’ve got to admit,” she told her students, “even for a Steelers fan!”

Story and photos by Charles Herndon, BCPS Communications Specialist
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