The students at Badger Mountain Elementary School, many decked out in Seattle Seahawks gear, didn’t take long to start rooting for their team once brought outside by their teachers Friday afternoon.
“Sea!” chanted fifth-grader Jacob Kump, 11.
“Hawks!” his surrounding classmates roared back.
But there was order in the chaos. Slowly, the outline of a large “12” formed on the field behind the south Richland school.
“I think it’s going to look good as long as all the kids stay in formation,” said fifth-grader Taylor Bookwalter, 11.
The students cheered and waved their arms when a plane flew overhead minutes later, knowing a Herald photographer was taking a picture of their efforts. Their team plays Sunday in the Super Bowl and everyone at the school wants their fandom known.
But teachers and staff have another goal in mind. After learning recently that one of their own families is struggling, they plan to print and sell posters of Friday’s photo to help that family out.
“We love doing things that celebrate community,” said Principal Gail Ledbetter.
Art teacher Sarah Metcalf and her husband Ryan, a pilot for Northwest Medstar, orchestrated the school’s 12th Man efforts. They helped with a similar aerial photograph at a Spokane school that had students write out “We (heart symbol) U” to show their devotion for a teacher serving in Afghanistan at the time.
Other Washington schools have arranged similar displays of solidarity for the Seahawks as the team prepares for the big game. Metcalf thought they should do something similar with Badger Mountain’s 730 students, she said.
Then, two weeks ago, the Herald published an article about Mushtaq Jihad, whose daughters attend Badger Mountain. It detailed his persecution in his native Iraq, how he lost his leg and his infant son in a bomb blast, his family’s move to the U.S. and his diagnosis of leukemia in recent months.
Metcalf and other staff at the school were floored, she said. Nobody had any idea what the Jihad family had been through.
“When I saw the article, I was sobbing,” she said.
That led the school to see if the 12th Man photo could be used to help the family. The Herald agreed to donate a digital copy of the print to the school and Digital Image in Richland has agreed to donate its services to provide prints that could be sold to raise money for the Jihads. The family also agreed to the plan, school officials said.
“That’s one of our families, that’s us, we need to help them,” Ledbetter said.
School officials are still working on how much the prints will sell for and when they’ll be available. But everyone was confident the photo turned out great.
“I’m pretty sure I saw the pilot wave on the last (pass), so that means it turned out,” said fifth-grader Madi Car, 10.
Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald