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Mooseheart's 2013 Homecoming is Oct. 5. The football kicks off at 1 p.m. against Alden-Hebron, and the contest always draws a large crowd of Moose members, Mooseheart alumni and current students and staff.
In-school "Theme Days" are a staple at Mooseheart the during homecoming week. A year ago, current senior Akeem Nyang came colorfully-attired for "Mismatch Day." This year's Mismatch Day is Oct. 1.
MOOSEHEART, IL, Sept. 27 – Of the autumnal activities which take place annually at high schools across the United States, Homecoming is one that is nearly universal.
At Mooseheart, however, Homecoming has a different feel. There are activities all week in the school and there is a pep rally the Friday before the Saturday football game. But the pace and feel of that Saturday is unique. It includes Moose members who arrive through the day to see the campus their membership supports; to the alumni who return to the Child City they called home, some for many years; and then the young Ramblers – children from toddlerhood to elementary school ages who are fully-included in many of the week's festivities.
So while the focal point of the week takes place this year at 1 p.m. on Oct. 5 when the Red Ramblers football team hosts Alden-Hebron, there is much more to the week and Homecoming Day than a football game.
"Homecoming at Mooseheart has always had a sense to me more of a college feel than a high school feel," Mooseheart Superintendent of Education Jeff Szymczak said. "You've lived here, and in college, you've usually had some residential living, and I think you bond closer with people with whom you're living. And here, it's not just four years of high school. We have students who've been raised here and where all their brothers and sisters were all here – and you don't even have that at most colleges."
The nationwide and worldwide nature of Mooseheart's current and former student body also make Homecoming unique. Where most high schools draw all their students from the town or perhaps the wider area in which they are located, Mooseheart's student body is truly global.
" The week and the day don't really belong to us," Szymczak said. "They belong to the students who've gone through this community and are coming back. Right now, we have 25 states represented in our student body and in years past, it may even have been larger. So we have former students coming back from many states to Mooseheart for one weekend of reunion."
Athletically, there are two Homecoming games. The volleyball team hosts Kirkland Hiawatha on Monday, Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. for its homecoming contest. The week concludes with Saturday's 1 p.m. Mooseheart-vs.-Alden-Hebron football contest.
In the school building, there are a series of "theme days" throughout the week, which allow the students to dress in various fashions. Monday is Pajama Day; Tuesday is Twin Day, where students find a student or an adult and both dress identically; Wednesday is Mismatch Day; Thursday is Decades Day, where students can dress in clothing from any decade from the 1950s to the 2000s; and Friday is Spirit Day.
"When it comes to the dress-down days, there are some that are tried and true favorites," Family And Consumer Science teacher Mandy Marks said. "Pajama Day is a favorite and putting it on Monday is easy. But the other ones take some discussion."
Marks and Physical Education teacher Mark Johnson coordinated the theme days and have added a scavenger hunt in which all four high school grade levels will compete. The scavenger hunt replaces the lunchtime games that took place in recent years.
"I sort of facilitate this through the (Student Activities Council)," Marks said. "But I don't want to tell them 'here's what you're doing.'"
Enthusiasm continues to build through Friday with the 6 p.m. pep rally at the football stadium, at which the class that has earned the Spirit Stick for the year is announced. The pep rally is followed by the annual bonfire near the campus' lake.
On-campus, Residence Homes will decorate once again this year in conjunction with the Homecoming theme, which is "Sack the Giants."
October 5 is more than just Homecoming at Mooseheart. It is also the date when a number of state Moose Associations converge on the campus for their "state day." Among those associations whose state days coincide with Homecoming this year are: Iowa-Eastern Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland-Delaware-DC, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas.
Each of those Associations will make presentations of checks and items to various residence homes on-campus through the morning before the homecoming game. From a 9:30 a.m. presentation by the Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri Moose associations at Antoinette Marinello Residence Home, the presentations take place every half-hour. The Pennsylvania Moose Association gathers at Baby Village at 10 a.m., the scene shifts to the Iowa-Eastern Nebraska Home for presentations from the Iowa-Eastern Nebraska Moose Association at 10:30 and the Maryland-Delaware-DC Moose Association concludes with presentations at the Maryland-Delaware-DC Home at 11 a.m.
"You hear about the support that the Moose gives here and for the students living here, you hear about it every day," Szymczak said. "But when you get to see the face of the people who actually do a lot of the heavy lifting, it's special."
Additionally, Mooseheart's school building will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to noon. In the midst of a two-year $10 million renovation project, this Open House allows Moose to see what they have been asked to contribute money to support, and with the project half-finished, are still being asked to fund.
"We had a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the school on July 27 and it's been open a couple of other times, where we've been able to give people a chance to see what they've been paying for," Szymczak said. "It's an ongoing process and I think it's imperative to say 'this is how we've been using your money and this is what it's gone for."
Following the football game, the homecoming dance takes place from 7-10 p.m. on-campus at the Paul J. O'Hollaren Center for Tomorrow. This year's theme is "Neon 90s."
"There are always a lot of ideas," Marks said. "This year, glow in the dark was their big push and so was neon. And they wanted to play some old school music."
The alumni also has a number of activities planned, including a banquet at the Lincoln Inn in Batavia from 7:30-9 p.m. on Saturday night.
"That Saturday is really important from the early morning all the way through because maybe they're meeting up with people they haven't seen for 20, 30 or 40 years," Szymczak said. "And sometimes it's not only meeting up just for themselves but also for siblings."
Szymczak said he's already had inquiries for the Homecoming Date for 2014.
"There are weddings that are planned for this weekend," Szymczak said. "They'll plan to get married on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday of Homecoming Week because they know everybody's going to be in the area."