BELLEVILLE - Thunder can be heard from miles away, an early warning that a storm is about to arrive. So, perhaps, it's only fitting that the name of Belleville Mennonite School's sports teams didn't sneak up on anyone.
Three months after the school's plan to change its nickname first surfaced, BMS officials announced Friday afternoon that the school's athletic teams formerly known as the Trojans would compete as the Thunder starting in the fall.
"The students have been curious about what the new athletic name is," said Valerie Reed, who serves as the development director at BMS. "The excitement leading up to this (unveiling) has been very positive."
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Third grade teacher Jared Byler, right, and student Kyle Derstein unveil Belleville Mennonite School’s new athletics nickname and logo during a special assembly Friday afternoon at the school in Belleville. The school had a kiss-the-cow contest, sumo wrestling, karaoke and a pie-eating contest leading up to the unveiling as well as several other special activities afterward.
Friday's announcement came with great fanfare as the school held "Mascot Mania." Events included duct taping third-grade teacher Jared Byler to the wall; throwing pies at Superintendent Kevin Dellape and fund-raising efforts that led to a BMS senior kissing a cow. The events were organized by the high school student senate, led by Brittany Yoder, a guidance counselor and senate adviser at BMS.
All proceeds from the events benefit Hershey Medical Center's Pediatric Cancer Center. The school will also host a mini-THON in May, modeled after the annual event held at Penn State.
Murals painted by art teacher Tami Peachey also were unveiled in the school gym and cafeteria. The cafeteria is now called "Thunder Cafe." BMS students also received T-shirts sporting the Thunder logo.
Selecting a new mascot is the first step in what Reed called a new athletic branding for the Belleville school. Now that the school's sports teams have a new mascot and logo, work will begin on revamping the school's logo and website.
"We are here to provide an excellent, Christ-centered education to children in our community," Reed said. "Education and faith in Christ are first and foremost. As the school continues to grow and thrive, it's important to continually be evaluating all areas of how we present ourselves.
"We are hoping that this new mascot and logo will enhance our overall brand and image, but this only a small piece of what the public sees of Belleville Mennonite School," she added. "The main image that we want to portray is a growing, thriving community of students and faculty working together to develop minds and build faith."
The new name is part of a bigger marketing campaign, which school officials hope will lead to increases in enrollment. Currently, BMS has 190 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
With the placement of new billboards and yard signs as well as sending admission packets to area day care centers, "We've been getting a lot of phone calls from interested families," Reed explained. "We also have school tours and sit-downs with our superintendent. These are great opportunity to find out and learn more about us."
An open house at BMS is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. on March 15.
During the selection process, BMS officials sought nicknames that promoted the school in a more positive manner and reinforced its mission and philosophy, and that also would work well with the school's name, represent some part of the history of the school or area, and say something about its geographic location.
Reed said about 40 suggestions for nicknames were submitted from students, parents and alumni in October. School officials then narrowed the list of choices to four: Blaze, Bucks, Mountaineers and Thunder. Students then chose Blaze and Thunder, and ultimately voted for Thunder in recent weeks. The school's colors remain red and white.
The new name was unveiled after the varsity basketball season so that there wasn't any confusion during the sports season.
"Thunder" is a loud, explosive, resounding noise, much like God's voice in the Bible. It has a very strong meaning," Reed said. "It is something that we're proud of, so it was important to get input from others."
Reed sought advice from Mark Crosson, principal at Mifflin County High School, as his school went through a similar identity change with the merger of Lewistown and Indian Valley.
"There was a lot of research involved with this process," she added. "A lot of us did Internet searches because we didn't want to use a name that was already out there."
Professional teams that currently use the Thunder nickname include the Oklahoma City's NBA team and a minor league baseball team in Trenton, N.J.
The new Thunder logo was designed by Pete Walters of Walters Media and Design in Royersford, Montgomery County, located about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
"We knew he does great work and also knew that he believed in our mission and wanted to help us in any way that he could," Reed said. "He has done a fantastic job for us."
BMS was founded in 1945, although the school has not always fielded athletic teams. The former Trojan mascot was introduced in 1969. The desire to change was fueled by the connotations of the name Trojan - a war-like figure and a brand of contraception - that school officials felt contradicted the Christian image of the school.