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Nothing like an energetic sports mascot to energize a room of young students and their teachers

ERIC NORBERG - Upon his arrival in the Tucker Maxon School gym, Trailblazer mascot Blaze the Trail Cat vigorously greeted the kids as he walked among them, then plopped down here and there for a more personal visit. Those travelling S.E. Holgate Boulevard, passing 29th Street, on Friday morning, May 12, may have been wondering about all those TV News trucks near Tucker Maxon School.

Nothing alarming was going on – the renowned nonprofit private school for the hearing-impaired was celebrating its 70th birthday, a successful fundraiser earlier in the month, and a recent move to open enrollment to students with "normal" hearing as well.

And the celebration that morning was being led by a visiting celebrity – the Portland Trailblazers' on-court mascot, "Blaze the Trail Cat". In the 45 minutes allotted for the visit, which started at 8:30 a.m., Blaze arrived and boisterously greeted the school's elementary and preschool students in the gym, then posed individually for photos with the students in a fast-moving line around the edge of the court, and concluded with a brief but lively basketball game.

ERIC NORBERG - The 45-minute visit by the Blazer Mascot in the gym at Tucker Maxon School ended with a short faculty-student basketball game without sides, refereeing, or scoring. Everybody had a blast.Blaze had been announced as being the referee for the game, but he decided to play instead. Everyone on the court (students were switched in and out of the game, and faculty joined in) seemed to feel free to shoot at either basket, and there appeared to be only one team in action, albeit one on which players occasionally blocked each other. Nobody kept score, and everybody had a good time.

Tucker Maxon has always been a maverick in teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing children, refusing to concentrate on sign language, and instead working to let these children hear the world, often through hearing aids or cochlear implants, and teaching listening and spoken language. That being the case, with the private school well-regarded for the quality of its teaching and curriculum, Tucker Maxon now also enrolls students with good hearing, who gain by its educational excellence, while providing for the other students a context for learning to excel in the "real world". The school's mission statement is "Tucker Maxon School teaches deaf and hearing children to listen, talk, learn, and achieve excellence together."

For more information on the school and its programs, and to see a video on the school's anniversary, go online to – www.tuckermaxon.org

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