LAUREL HILL — There’s a new Hobo in town, and the Rev. Mike McVay — who has long embodied Laurel Hill School’s mascot — welcomes the young upstart.

After all, he's McVay's grandson.

Eighth-grader Garrett McVay, who debuted the Hobo mascot at the school’s Dec. 4 homecoming pep rally said, “I was nervous as all get-out. I sat in a room and I held my head and I wondered what I was going to do."

But when he entered the gymnasium, he quickly got into the spirit.“I was hyper,” he said.

A highlight occurred when Principal Lee Martello, varsity basketball player T.J. Wyatt and the Hobo started dancing to multi-generational music.

“We got up and did a ‘Whip/Nae Nae’ dance off,” Garrett said, referring to the dance song by rapper Silentó. “Then we were dancing to Tom Jones’ ‘It’s Not Unusual.’”


The new mascot costume is the work of exceptional students education teachers’ assistant Jessica Stokes, who’s also Laurel Hill School’s cheerleading sponsor.

It started almost as a dare.

“She started looking online to purchase (a costume) and of course, we couldn’t afford it,” Martello said. (Stokes said she received quotes from $4,100 to $5,500.) “So she and her husband started looking at YouTube videos of professional mascots.

“Her husband told her, ‘Jessica, I think this is out of your league.’ She said, ‘What did you say?’”

Click here to see how it was done.

Stacks of insulation foam from Lowe’s were glued together to form the Hobo’s head. “They carved it with kitchen knives,” Martello said.

A bicycle helmet is built into the structure, mixing spoons from the Dollar Tree to form the eyes. Felt stretched over the foam base makes the skin.

“After we had it shaped and colored, we took it down to Air Brush Nation at the Destin Wal-Mart and the air brush guy did a really phenomenal job on the coloring,” Stokes said.

Clothes from Goodwill make up the Hobo’s outfit, with a hula hoop forming the hefty waist.

“The real hobos didn’t need that,” Stokes said. “They never got fat.”

The do-it-yourself approach saved the school plenty of money; the entire costume, head to toe, cost just $150, she said.


Stokes said there was no question in selecting Garrett to bring the Hobo to life.

“He’s really spirited and a good little dancer,” she said. “And with Paw Paw (McVay) doing the live Hobo, we thought it would be a perfect fit.”

But Garrett isn’t replacing his grandfather, Stokes said.

“He’s the real Hobo. He’s the original,” she said. “We love Brother Mike. He’s not going anywhere.”

“Garrett’s a real Hobo, too,” McVay said. “He just has the big head. As long as the kids like it, I’m fine with it. He’s a good addition to the Hobo spirit.”

The two Hobos appear together at games, pep rallies and other school functions.

However, unlike his grandfather, Garrett’s Hobo doesn’t talk.

“You have to stay active,” he said. “Your words are in your actions. There isn’t a dull moment when you’re in that costume.”

Recently, as Garrett, in full Hobo regalia, walked through the halls, he passed a group of first-graders outside their classroom.

Excited shouts of, “There’s the Hobo!” immediately went up.

“He’s great!” first-grader Asani Drake said. “I like how his face looks. He gets me dancing.”