Sparky’s Tour reaches out to Valley youth

09-16-09 Sparky
Sparky psychs up the student section during the season opener against Idaho State at Sun Devil Stadium. In his off time, Sparky, along with ASU athletes, is making trips to local schools to make an impact in the lives of Valley youth.(Damien Maloney | The State Press)
Published On:
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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One of college sports’ most recognizable mascots is hitting the road again, along with the athletes he cheers on at ASU, in an effort to make a positive difference in children’s lives.

Sparky’s Tour, headlined by the well-known Sun Devil mascot, was created by the ASU athletic department in 2008 as a community outreach program.

ASU student-athletes, administrators, coaches and Sparky all take part in the tour.

Sparky’s Tour stops at various schools throughout the Valley, encouraging Arizona youth to make positive decisions, work hard and share goodwill.

Members of the ASU gymnastics team and the ASU softball team were the first teams to participate in Sparky’s Tour during the new semester.

Gymnastics coach John Spini and two members of the ASU gymnastics team, junior Skye Gentile and freshman Nickie Johnson, participated in Sparky’s Tour.

“We talked about telling the children how to balance their days to make sure they’re getting their homework done and eating right,” Gentile said.

Sparky and two members of the ASU spirit squad accompanied them the gymnastics team to PT Coe Elementary School, where they discussed why it’s important to do your best in school and why students should ask teachers for help.

“We talked to them about being great students and looking at where they want to go,” Spini said. “They’re very young, so we try to give them basic tips for when they’re growing up and running into problems.”

Spini also uses Sparky examples to address issues. When they talked about sitting at the front of the class, they told the kids that Sparky always sits at the front of the class.

“They love Sparky,” Spini said. “Sparky will come out and they’re yelling and screaming.”

The athletes said they got a lot out of the experience with the youngsters.

“I thought it was really great,” Gentile said. “It was really nice to see children like that and how they were so excited and how we helped them.”

Gentile said the students were ecstatic about having Sparky and the ASU athletes at their school.

“When they were all coming in, they were just really excited and just screaming and really happy that ASU was there,” Gentile said.

ASU softball players Dani Lougheed (sophomore outfielder/first baseman) and Hillary Bach (sophomore pitcher) went on Sparky’s Tour on a different day. They went to Gilland Middle School in Tempe and talked to the students about the importance of academics in life, and how positive choices can affect their futures

Sparky’s Tour will go through the end of May 2010. It will continue to feature ASU coaches, athletes and Sparky.

Last year, Sparky’s Tour visited 32 schools, reaching out to almost 20,000 students.

Sparky’s Tour speaks to students about the importance of receiving an education and the ability for everyone to achieve success by staying on the right track.

Reach the reporter at nicole.klauss@asu.edu.