Residents of Fort Mill could probably hear the screams coming from Sugar Creek Elementary School on Tuesday morning as the Carolina Panthers rolled in for a character-driven pep rally.
Sugar Creek was the winner of a “Character Counts” grant worth $2,500, sponsored by the Panthers and Harris Teeter. As the grant winner, the school also won a morning with the Carolina Panthers’ players, cheerleaders and mascot.
“This couldn’t happen to a better school,” said Carolyn Mullen, a PTO member and parent of a fifth-grade student.
Tuesday’s events were a big surprise to the students at Sugar Creek. All they knew was they should wear their Panthers gear. They had no idea their morning would turn into a dance party and game show, complete with Panthers kicker Graham Gano and linebacker Thomas Davis.
Before the festivities got started, third-graders Carson Shelley and Hunter Mac, wearing their Panthers jerseys proudly, predicted the Panthers mascot, Sir Purr, and some players might make an appearance.
They were excited because, Hunter said, “We don’t get to see them that much.”
When he was walking down the hallway to the cafeteria and saw the Panthers cars parked outside, he shouted, “That’s Cam Newton’s car.”
And while Cam Newton wasn’t on hand at the school, students and teachers were excited to meet Gano and Davis. The two players worked with students to compete in a game show that had questions based on character traits such as responsibility and tolerance.
As part of the answer to one of the questions, team captain Davis told the students he thought trustworthiness was the most important character trait a leader should have.
“In order for you to lead, you’ve got to be someone the guys can trust,” he said.
Students and teachers took part in a number of other challenges, such as a dance-off, an obstacle course and a race to see which team could dress a teacher in full Panthers gear faster.
One of the students competing in the game show said it was “awesome” to spend time with professional football players.
The $2,500 grant will go toward Sugar Creek’s annual Cultural Night, which brings 1,500 people to the school, said school Principal (and Panthers fan) Michelle Gritz.
Gritz said she hoped the Panthers character event helped drive home lessons students learn every day.
“It just connects with what we’re doing and really enhances our program, and I’m just excited the kids got to see that,” Gritz said.