By Ann Gonzalez, APG Public AffairsNovember 20, 2019
ABERDEEN, Md. -- On a warm summer night in the city of Aberdeen, families gather for one of America's favorite pastimes: baseball. The Aberdeen IronBirds, a minor league baseball team, is hosting its annual Military Appreciation Night. Families are hurrying through the concessions lines so they can usher their children to their seats. A 4-year-old walks through the crowd holding her mother's hand, feeling a bit intimidated by all the big people around her.
The child catches a glimpse of the top of a fuzzy head through the sea of people. The crowd parts and she starts to drag her mom toward a life-size stuffed eagle. All of her fear melts away as she's wrapped in giant fuzzy hug.
Wearing that eagle costume is a Jackie Dennis, a U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command logistics data management specialist. Dennis started working for CECOM at Fort Monmouth 11 years ago after attending a job fair at Rutgers University, the university she attended.
Dennis volunteers for APG as the installation's mascot, RePete. She has had the opportunity to represent APG at a variety of events including CECOM town halls, Aberdeen IronBirds Military Appreciation Night, and local Independence Day parades.
Dennis decided to volunteer as the APG mascot because she thought it sounded fun and she liked the idea of bringing visibility to the important topic of environmental protection. She first volunteered as a mascot during her senior year of high school as Tom A. Hawk for J.P. Stevens High School in Edison, New Jersey.
"I loved the idea of a hidden identity. I wanted to be able to dance around and act like an idiot without anyone knowing it was me," she said.
For those of us wondering what it's like to actually wear the costume, she said while it can get hot inside it and the limited visibility inside the costume can make things difficult -- especially to see her youngest adoring fans -- it's a worthwhile experience.
"I absolutely love how excited people of all ages are to see me," she said. "It's fun to dance and make the mascot whoever I want them to be."
Dennis said being a mascot helped her to be comfortable in her own skin and added that RePete is her favorite mascot to volunteer as. She remembers a Halloween event as the first time she had the opportunity to work with younger children.
The compliments she received about her performance just fueled her energy. She fondly recalls encountering young twins who said, "Look! It's fried chicken before we eat it!"
"That's when I realized I also got to be a living stuffed animal for the kids," she said.
Outside of work, Dennis enjoys running, weight-lifting, crocheting, cross-stitching, board games and volunteering through her church, Grace United Methodist Church in Aberdeen. At the church, she coordinates volunteers for small jobs through its outreach group, Hands Helping Others.