It was her freshman orientation in 2012 when jazz performance major Cara Dekelbaum knew that she wanted to undertake the task of being the school mascot. Now, after three and a half years of being True Grit, she has decided to go public with her identity.
“At move in day, I saw a mascot with a ponytail hanging out of the head and I immediately thought ‘that could be me,’” said Dekelbaum.
She started by reaching out to the director of the pep band, who then led her to the director of the athletic program. Initially, she was discouraged because of her height. At 5′ 2”, she was scared that she would not be able to fill the role, but that October she debuted the iconic suit at the Homecoming bonfire.
“I just remember seeing my reflection the first time I was in the suit and I just could not believe that it was real,” said Dekelbaum. “The energy of the bonfire was amazing and everyone was asking for pictures so it was a great first event.”
From there she continued to mascot at various sporting events and events on campus. However, she really flourished in her role as True Grit when she started doing events that were off campus.
“My first out of school event was the Brigance Brigade run for ALS research which changed everything, because that is where I met the Frederick Keys mascot and he put me in touch with mascots of other minor league teams, and that was when I really learned networking,” said Dekelbaum.
Some of the other events at which she was the mascot were a Potomac Nationals game and an international friendly game between Chelsea Football Club and AS Roma at RFK Stadium. With all of the events she has worked, she has gotten to meet many well-known figures within the community from President Freeman Hrabowski to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Nevertheless, she said that one of the highlights of her time as True Grit was meeting Larry Hogan at the retirement event for William Kirwan in the spring of 2015.
“I just remember interacting with so many people and meeting him, even though I did not really realize it at the time,” said Dekelbaum. “It was only when I saw President Hrabowski and he told me about the photo that it really hit me.”
As her time comes to an end, Dekelbaum discusses what she has made of True Grit and what she hopes will continue no matter who the next person is to put on the suit.
“True Grit is a character, I have made him someone who is goofy, but wants to be taken seriously,” she said. “I want people to keep up that character and use True Grit as a way to be whoever they want to be.”
Although she has a few more events in the summer, graduation will be an interesting end to Dekelbaum’s time as mascot when she will participate in a tradition.
Dekelbaum remarked, “Every time a mascot graduates, they wear the shoes and gloves at graduation so people will finally get to know who I am.”