The students at one elementary school were excited when their school mascot made an appearance at lunchtime. No one suspected anything when the mascot sat down at one table. When the mascot finally removed its “head,” however, the boy sitting opposite screamed out upon realizing who it was.
When McKinley Jaguar, the mascot of McKinley Elementary School in Appleton, Wisconsin, made an appearance on Jan. 26 to greet the students, everyone was excited. After a full round of high-fives, the jaguar, which had a remarkable knack of walking around on two legs, decided to take a seat with some students.
The students continued to play with the mascot, and one boy even offered his snacks. Perhaps he thought the jaguar was getting hungry with all those high-fives!
Everyone was laughing and having a good time.
But when the jaguar removed its head, the boy in blue sitting opposite, named Jake, was shocked to see who it was.
The sixth-grader yelled out “Mom!” and ran to the other side of the table to hug her.
“He was coming in hot,” Sgt. Jen Sabrowsky told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
Sabrowsky had just returned from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East, and she wanted to make her homecoming a special one. She arranged the surprise with Andrea Vinje, the principal at McKinley.
“It was so amazing,” Vinje said. “It was so nice to see all of the other kids just so genuinely happy. That made me super proud.”
Jake told WLUK that he didn’t know that his mother would return early. “I thought she was staying until mid-summer,” he said.
Jake said that he was feeling doubtful when he saw his mom.
“I was like is this is a dream or is it reality?” Jake said. “And then I just ran over and gave her a hug. I almost thought about crawling over the table.”
The heartwarming reunion was captured on video by the school.
“It was surprising to me rewatching the video later how quickly he recognized me because when I was sitting there I was like ok he’s forgotten,” Sabrowsky said. “I know that seems really unlikely, but a million things go through your head.”
She explained that her son and stepson struggled while she was away, so she wanted to give them a surprise.
“It was a tough time for both of them so I wanted to make it a big deal coming home. I wanted them to feel this is something we can be proud of, not just something to be endured,” she said.
As her stepson, Jackson, was missing her too, Sabrowsky planned another surprise for him that night. He thought he was receiving a late birthday present at a friend’s house, and indeed, he received a real treat when his blindfold was removed—Ta-da!
“We had to get a little more creative with his surprise,” she explained.
She added that she is thankful to everyone who helped her and her sons while she was away.
“Everyone stepped up and stepped in over the last year,” Sabrowsky said. “It’s been amazing.”