Like many schools, McKinley Elementary School in Appleton, Wisconsin, is home to a lovable mascot, the McKinley Jaguar. The costumed character is popular with the kids, who get excited when it makes a special appearance.
Recently, the mascot had a surprise for one student.
On January 26th, the jaguar entered the cafeteria, greeting the lively students with high-fives.
But then, the jaguar sat down to have lunch with one group of students.
A sixth-grade boy named Jake played along, offering the costumed performer some snacks.
They all laughed … but then the jaguar started removing its head.
And Jake was shocked when he saw who was underneath.
It was his mother, Sgt. Jen Sabrowsky, returned home from the Middle East!
Sabrowsky had been overseas with the Wisconsin Army National Guard since April and hadn’t seen her son since. Jake had no idea his mother was back home.
“I thought she was staying until mid-summer,” Jake later told WLUK.
“I was like is this is a dream or is it reality?” he recalled thinking. He immediately sprinted around the long cafeteria table to finally greet her.
“I just ran over and gave her a hug. I almost thought about crawling over the table.”
“He was coming in hot,” Sabrowsky told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
The military mom wanted to make a big entrance after returning home, and she planned fun surprises for both her son and step-son.
“It was a tough time for both of them,” she explained. “I wanted to make it a big deal coming home. I wanted them to feel this is something we can be proud of, not just something to be endured.”
Even if that meant dressing in a jaguar costume.
“I had big, clunky boots on, and then I had these feet over my boots,” Sabrowsky explained.
“I was really afraid I was going to trip.”
She told the school she wanted to surprise her son, and they were more than willing to help. They offered her the costume so she could sneak in unsuspected.
“It was awesome that the school facilitated the surprise,” Sabrowsky said. “The school was so on top of things the entire time I was gone.”
Seeing the look on the mother and son’s faces—and the excited round of applause they received from the other students—faculty were thrilled that they were able to make the moment happen.
“It was so amazing,” school principal Andrea Vinje said.
“It was so nice to see all of the other kids just so genuinely happy. That made me super proud.”
This was one school mascot who really knew how to spread cheer!
Watch the video below: