Who is that masked man?

Champ the Bulldog seems to be everywhere: sporting and community events, walking down the hallways, and even birthday parties. How does the bipedal dog do it? Three UMD students — Spencer Olson, Patrick O’Neil and Taylor Korum — take turns wearing the uniform depending on their respective availabilities. Olson typically does the community and social events while O’Neil and Korum do sporting events.

For Olson, this is nothing new. The sophomore engineering major was the mascot at Holy Family High School in Chaska. He was so into the role that he even created his own dragon costume, which he says the kids loved. When he arrived at UMD, he quickly jumped at the chance to don the bulldog costume.

“I saw the opportunity to have it up here, so I went for it,” Olson said.

Wearing the costume counts as work-study, which was a big factor for O’Neil when he signed up.

“It looked like something fun to do and you get paid to do it,” O’Neil said. “I thought, ‘Why not?’”

O’Neil was a three-sport athlete at Apple Valley High School, which didn’t allow him to be a mascot at the time. Once he got to UMD, the business finance major saw this as a way to get paid to attend the games.

As for Korum, he couldn’t quite put a finger on why he chose to be a six-foot-tall Bulldog.

“I’ve been Champ for three years,” Korum said. “Don’t really know why.” The junior criminology major said that some friends convinced him to become Champ when they saw how much energy he had in his everyday life.

O’Neil said that he’s been busier wearing the Champ costume this year than previous years, splitting most of the sporting events with Korum. As for Olson, he said he averages about three events each week.

Olson added that each of the three have their own ways of helping each other out and getting fans into the game.

“Patrick is really good at being available and helping out whenever he can,” Olson said. “Taylor is really good with crowd control and getting people’s attention and interacting with the crowd. I’m really good at entertaining the crowd through dancing and stuff like that. Each of us has strengths.”

Something that Olson and O’Neil focused on was how hot the costume gets — especially working outdoors early in the school year. That’s why O’Neil’s favorite events are men’s and women’s hockey.

“It gets really hot in the suit,” O’Neil said. “The hockey arena is air-conditioned and cold, so you get a lot less sweaty.”

Korum’s favorite event to work is men’s hockey as well.

“(The) most fans and the most students,” Korum said. “They have a lot of fun. I get to skate around, talk with the players. It’s pretty fun.”

As for how hot the suit gets, Korum says that hockey games are the worst.

“I would say that at men’s hockey games you actually sweat the most,” Korum said. “I’m moving around, skating and running up and down stairs.”

But, according to all three, the most rewarding part of wearing the suit is seeing people’s reactions towards Champ — especially from the kids.

“I think just seeing how happy people can be and making people’s day,” Olson said. He added that, for a recent birthday party, he was playing hockey with younger kids while wearing the costume. The kids had a blast.

“Seeing how happy the kids were made my day,” Olson said.

Korum said there is a fine line to tread with kids because some love Champ, but others are terrified.

“I made a little baby say his first word. He said ‘Doggy,’” Korum said. “And then a year later, some kids a bit older might not like it. A year after that, they might like it again. It’s all just an up-and-down; you kind of have to go in slow.”

For O’Neil, interacting with the kids is rewarding.

“The kids, they get so happy to see you,” O’Neil said. “Then you go up to them, hug them or high-five them, and they just get super excited. It just kind of makes you smile.”

BY SAM STROM News Editor

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