Fund helps support Baby Jay costume

Rock chalk, Baby Jay, Go KU.

Thirty years later after becoming the original Baby Jay mascot, Kansas University alumnus Amy Hurst Rachman continues to spread school spirit and enthusiasm. She donated $5,000 to the Original Baby Jay Mascot Fund. Her mother, Marti Daniels Hurst, who died in March, committed another $57,000 to the fund through her estate.

“My mother never went to KU, but generations and generations of my family did,” Rachman said. “It meant a lot, and in our minds it is a donation to us all.”

The money will help pay for new mascot costumes, maintain current costumes and be used for travel expenses.

“We have recognized that mascots do not have a source of income, while they should,” Rachman said. “The purpose of the fund is to correct this and pull the mascots themselves into their own entity.

“The mascots are truly the icons and the ones people most identify KU with. When people see those little Jayhawks, they immediately make the connection with KU; they are interlinked.”

In 1970 while working at a Lawrence restaurant, Rachman formed the idea for Baby Jay. She teased her co-worker, who played the role of Big Jay, that he needed a sidekick.

The following summer the creation of Baby Jay became a family adventure for the Hurst family. Baby Jay “hatched” during halftime of the KU-Kansas State homecoming game Oct. 9, 1971.

“The Jayhawk is one of the most famous mythical birds ever created, so we are all very appreciative,” said John Scarffe, a KU Endowment Association spokesman.

The original Baby Jay costume, stitched together by Rachman’s mother, was made out of chicken wire, fiberglass and felt. The original costume weighed 30 pounds. It was heavy, hot and difficult to wear, but Rachman didn’t mind.

A new case on the first floor of the Kansas Union displays the original Baby Jay. The mascot made its debut during halftime of the Kansas University-Kansas State football game Oct. 9, 1971.

“It’s a great thing to have made such an incredible contribution to the school,” said Rachman. “I never thought I was creating such a tradition; I just thought the costume would be fun to wear and it would be a fun way to see all of the basketball games.”

David Johnston, marketing coordinator for KU Memorial Unions, drove Rachman at the homecoming parade and celebration of Baby Jay’s 30th birthday in 2001.

“It’s incredibly important to the university, especially to our public image,” Johnston said of the mascots.