Teacher raises $25k to outfit entire school in Seahawks colors

SEATTLE -- The Super Bowl is still nine days away, but it didn't stop a local school from holding a supersized Seahawks pep rally - complete with mini-Marshawns and wee Wilsons.

Nearly 500 of them.

"It's exciting and cool and fun," said 11-year old Ella Schmidt. "It's cool that everybody could get this all to work out. I think it's really great that people do this for complete strangers. They don't even know us."

Schmidt is a 5th grade student at Kimball Elementary School, where the pep rally was held on Friday afternoon. She and her classmates had every reason to cheer, after teachers handed each one of them a Seahawks jersey to keep.

"Studies will show: when kids are happy, they're learning, and right now every single kid in here is smiling," said teacher Kevin Zelko, "real big Seahawks smiles right now."

Fridays are "spirit days" at Kimball, and kids are encouraged to wear jerseys to support their favorite teams. But Kimball is also an urban school with a heavy immigrant population, where more than half the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Jerseys here are a luxury, not a necessity.

"A jersey really represents the passion of being included in the spirit of the team," Zelko added. "But it can be really tight for families trying to buy (one)."

Enter Zelko's bright idea. Not only is he a special education teacher at Kimball, but he also slings beer at Seattle sporting events in his spare time. It was during a Seahawks playoff game a few weeks ago when he raked in Beast Mode-sized tips - and thought to buy jerseys for his neediest students.

He quickly realized it'd be tough to pinpoint just a few.

So Zelko aimed high - and put the plea out to the public. He started a crowd-funding campaign, seeking $25,000 to outfit the entire school with jerseys.

In less than two weeks - and thanks in part to one benefactor who donated $9,000 - this week's spirit day quickly became Blue Friday.

"We're gonna get jerseys!" said Sammy Aschalew, a 10-year-old student, as he waited for one. "That is so awesome!"

A few former players pumped up the crowd while Zelko stood on the sidelines watching. At one point, he called up Greg Kero of Olympia to shake his hand.

"It's just amazing, seeing all the kids in the jerseys," said Kero, the $9,000 benefactor. "It's pretty overwhelming. Kevin's the real hero here, not me. I was able to write a check but Kevin's done all the really hard work to make this happen."

Zelko said any money donated beyond the cost of the jerseys would be donated to academic endeavors at the school.

"When you wear a jersey, you're connected with everyone else who's wearing your team's pride. Every kid here is going to get to do that," Zelko added. "I think many kids will remember this the rest of their lives."