You can say a lot of things about Cocky, but he’s no dumb cluck.
The South Carolina mascot brought his popular Cocky’s Reading Express to the Outback Bowl Parade on Monday afternoon in the historic Ybor City district.
The bus, which features a large graphic of the Gamecocks’ mascot, rolled into town to hand out 1,000 free books to young children along the parade route.
“We’re all ready to show our colors and bring it back to the message that we want every child to read on grade level,” CRE executive director Kim Jeffcoat said. “That call to action is really what takes the program to the next level.”
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The nation’s first college mascot program has dispersed more than 50,000 free books since it was started by USC’s student government in 2005. The bus, which routinely takes trips across the Palmetto State, made this trek to Florida to further spread the word about the importance of literacy for kids. The role of Cocky, an eternal student who reads at the college level, as the spokesbird is significant when it come to appealing to them.
“He is a beloved figure,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s amazing when you go into areas (across the state) how children respond to him.”
Jeffcoat made the long ride Monday with program coordinator Christine Shelek, graduate assistant Zach Lukemire, and six of their top student volunteers: Chris Campbell, Madison Curlin, Rachel Price, James Armstrong III, Tristany Horton, and Chris Turner.
“They give up so much of their time when they don’t have to and do the volunteer work with the program,” Jeffcoat said.
The bus will be on-site today at Raymond James Stadium, with CRE crew at the alumni tailgate to inform fans about its mission. Before leaving Wednesday, the bus will make a final stop at a public library to donate 500 more free books.
“We wanted to make an impact on the way back out of town and do something for Tampa before we hit the road,” Jeffcoat said.