COLLEGE PARK-WEST BOULEVARD
By ANN ELISE TAYLOR
Inside a closet in the front office of Russell Boulevard Elementary School, a wide-eyed, oversized raven perches atop a shelf filled with spare paper, pens and highlighters.
Mary Lamberson, Russell Boulevard’s secretary, pulled it off the shelf carefully. She ran her hand over the orange beak and patted the black feathers down a bit. She held up the head of the raven costume.
“So this is Rusty Raven,” Lamberson said. “It’s our new mascot costume.”
Lamberson looked at the bird and smiled. “We’re going to have a lot of fun with it here,” she said.
Until this year, Russell Boulevard had never had a costume for its raven mascot, which has represented Russell since 1985. However, when Lamberson’s father, Martin Mahula, a former principal and teacher, died at the end of December, she knew exactly how his memory should be honored.
“I had been looking at these mascot costumes for the school for quite a while,” Lamberson said. “But they were pretty expensive. Anyway, my sister and I decided that with his memorial money, this is what we would get.”
Lamberson said the purchase was fitting, as making children happy was a particular pleasure of Mahula’s.
“He was a big kidder and joker,” Lamberson said. “And Russell was just a big part of his life. My kids went here, and I work here, so my folks came to Russell activities with my children and me. …. He would like that the raven makes children laugh.”
After attending four Russell Boulevard events, the raven has successfully entertained the students so far, Principal Ed Schumacher said.
“The kids love it,” Schumacher said. “When they see it, they get really excited.”
Lamberson said Russell Boulevard parents have enjoyed the bird costume as well.
“I think a lot of the adults, particularly in our international families, had their picture taken with him at our International Fair,” Lamberson said. “They then sent the pictures home to their families.”
Lamberson has worn the costume to three Russell Boulevard events. Though she said the black, furry costume can be uncomfortably warm at times, she has loved her experiences wearing it.
“At the International Fair, there was this little boy, a toddler,” Lamberson said. “He was small enough that he was still carrying his bottle. Anyway, at the beginning of the evening, he was really wary of the raven. So I would just hold out my – the raven’s – wing for him. By the end of the night, the little boy didn’t want to leave me.”
Lamberson said most of the kids react positively to the raven.
“They all want to hug you,” she said. “It’s the most hugging and kissing I’ve ever had.”
She said the next goal for the raven is to get either a hat or a shirt for it that says “Russell Boulevard Elementary.”
“We just envision him going to all kinds of events at the school,” Lamberson said. “For me, it’s a just a neat memory of my dad. He would have like it. He would have thought it was a lot of fun.”