By Len Lear

We know that schools are supposed to teach English, history, science, etc., but one teacher at Springside/Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) may just be the only teacher in the Delaware Valley if not the country who also teaches young people how to be mascots. Richie Blyweiss, 34, fifth and sixth grade boys’ history teacher, is also Head Coach of the SCH Blue Devil Mascot Team, whose members have been participating in various events since 2018.

Richie Blyweiss, fifth and sixth grade boys’ history teacher at Springside/Chestnut Hill, overcame depression as a teenager by becoming a school mascot and is now Head Coach of the SCH Blue Devil Mascot Team.

According to the SCH communications department, “The Upper School students started out putting on the costume and trying out different scenarios, exercising at the gym and watching professional mascot videos as well as video recordings of themselves in the mascot costume to see what worked and what didn’t. Blyweiss, who serves as their handler when they’re in the costume, helps them as they walk around SCH sports games, giving them tips and challenging them to demonstrate 15 different expressions of happiness or disappointment. The students said they didn’t realize how hot it would be inside the Blue Devil or how heavy it would be. It was also surprisingly hard at first to learn how to maneuver around in the costume, so they appreciate having Blyweiss as their helper.”

The students, who wish to remain unidentified, said they enjoy the anonymity while in costume. One student said she had wanted to be a mascot for some time but didn’t know how to pursue it, so she was excited when Blyweiss made an announcement in an assembly about this opportunity. While she’s a bit shy in person, she feels free to be animated as the mascot. “I can be completely different in the costume,” she said.

“When I am in the costume, I can be funny, happy or sad, without needing to have those emotions at the time,” another student said. “Plus, being in the costume around the Lower School students makes it feel like this alter ego is a celebrity. Having this mascot that they look up to interact with them makes their day better.”

Blyweiss, who lives in lower Bucks County with his wife, Amanda, and rescue dog, Belle, graduated from Cheltenham High School, Temple University (Bachelor’s Degree in Education) and La Salle University (Master’s Degree in Education).

At Cheltenham he was the “Cheltenham Panther,” At Temple he was “Hooter the Owl,” and he spent 10 years as “Mad Dog,” mascot for the Philadelphia Wings. Most recently he has worked for the Delaware 87ers (Developmental League for the Philadelphia 76ers) and currently is a mascot for a team in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. (He is not allowed to reveal that character’s name.) 

“With the support of our Athletics Department and so many others at SCH,” said Blyweiss last week, “our team continues to grow and help bring joy and excitement to our sporting events, community events and school functions. I’m honored to have the ability to create a team around this (Blue Devil costume). It’s an experience truly unique to SCH.”

One benefit of being a mascot for Richie, one he could not possibly have anticipated, was getting a Super Bowl ring! “The mascot community is a tight group in Philly!” he explained. “I was asked by Swoop (mascot of the Philadelphia Eagles) to join my team of Mascot Assistants (The Swoop Crew) and be of help to Swoop at Eagles games, community events, appearances, etc.

“I jumped at the opportunity to work with such a talented performer and never envisioned that my first year with the team would be the year we went to and won the Super Bowl. When the Super Bowl victory happened, I was just hoping that the Eagles would be kind enough to send me a shirt or hat that said ‘Super Bowl Champions.’ Never did I think that what they sent me would be my very own Super Bowl ring!

“About a month after the victory, I got a phone call from Swoop alerting me that I would be receiving a Super Bowl ring. It was the most surprising phone call I have ever received. I remember the day it arrived in the mail at 9 a.m. … I waited until the immediate family was all able to join me to open the ring box for the first time. That night we all opened it together and celebrated the Super Bowl all over again. As happy as I was to receive the ring, I was happier to open it with my family. It’s why it’s so ironic that the ring not only says ‘BLYWEISS’ on the side, but the word ‘FAMILY’ as well.”

What is the hardest thing Blyweiss has ever done? “After my mom passed away in November, 2018, I wasn’t in a state of mind to think about performing in costume anymore and was hesitant to even start this team at SCH. I started mascotting in high school because I wanted to find a happier and better version of myself following my battle with depression. The other part was that I wanted to show my parents I could be happy and find happiness in life. They were always my biggest supporters and fans … Out of the hardest thing I’ve ever done, which is putting a costume back on, has come one of the greatest in seeing the joy it still brings my dad after all these years.”

For more information, visit sch.org. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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