LAWRENCE -- The creators of Baby Jay are making sure that future hatchlings have the support they need to cheer on the University of Kansas Jayhawks.
Asheville, N.C., resident Amy Hurst Rachman, the original Baby Jay, has given $5,000 to the Kansas University Endowment Association to establish the Original Baby Jay Mascot Fund. The fund will help defray the costs of the mascot program including purchasing and maintaining the KU mascot costumes for Baby Jay and Big Jay. Rachman's mother, Marti Daniels Hurst of Boca Raton, Fla., has committed an additional $57,000 for the fund through her estate plans.
The gift coincides with the completion of a permanent display for Rachman's original costume, which her parents helped her put together more than 30 years ago. The original Baby Jay had been stored at University Archives since the costume's retirement in 1987. A gift from the Class of 2002 paid for the costume to be mounted and displayed on the first floor of the newly remodeled Kansas Union. The display was dedicated during the 2003 homecoming weekend in October.
Rachman's inspiration for Baby Jay came when she was in high school and visited Lawrence, where she saw a Jayhawk bumper sticker depicting Big Jay and hatchlings. The idea stayed with her throughout her freshman year, when she befriended the student who portrayed Big Jay. She eventually secured approval from the Kansas Alumni Association to create the costume -- and permission to wear it.
Rachman said her parents devoted the summer of 1971 to helping design and build Baby Jay. Using the design she drew on spiral-notebook paper, they worked nightly over the summer to turn her initial concept into a full-size chicken wire, fiberglass and felt costume. It cost only $53 to create.
"My parents' enthusiasm for the project was extraordinary," said Rachman, physical therapy '74. "And my mom's creativity and talent with crafts really made this all happen. I have pictures of her on the cement floor of the garage, stitching Baby Jay together."
Rachman, who was Baby Jay for three years, said the original costume is much different than those worn by current Jays.
"My original wasn't flexible," she said. "I couldn't get my wings to come together. I could only see out of small holes in the beak and eyes, and the weight of the fiberglass bounced up and down, bruising my legs. But it didn't matter. I loved being Baby Jay."
The KU mascots are the ambassadors of the university, attending hundreds of events each year, she added.
"With this huge role the mascots play in representing the university comes substantial expenses," Rachman said. "For example, the costumes require replacement usually every two years at a cost of almost $5,000 per costume. My family has created this endowment to guarantee our fine, feathered friends will be able to attend as many events as possible and look great while strutting their stuff. We invite you to support the mascot program by sending your contribution to the Original Baby Jay Mascot Fund at KU Endowment."
The gifts from Rachman and Hurst count toward the $500 million goal of KU First: Invest in Excellence, the largest fund-raising campaign in KU history. KU Endowment is conducting KU First on behalf of KU through 2004 to raise funds for scholarships, fellowships, professorships, capital projects and program support. KU Endowment is an independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fund-raising and fund-management organization for KU.
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