Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
The Super Bowl is a major event for any football fan, but with the Kansas City Chiefs in the big game for the first time in 50 years, Fort Leavenworth has been spreading the spirit since it became official following the AFC Conference Championship Game Jan. 19.
For Unified School District 207 schools, staff and students celebrated with a Chiefs-themed Spirit Week Jan. 27-31.
“It has been 50 years since we’ve been to the Super Bowl, so I thought anything that could increase the culture of our school and build relationships amongst the students and staff, why not do it,” said Tricia Dreiling, Patton Junior High School girls’ physical education coach, who was responsible for organizing the Spirit Week at Patton along with Penny Paradies, Patton drama and seventh-grade English teacher. “(The students) are experiencing history. Who knows where they will go next, but they get to live in a city or a city close to a football team that may make it all the way, so showing them the importance of being a part of a city that has togetherness is awesome.”
At Patton, the week included (Patrick) Mahomes Monday, Tyreek (Hill) Tuesday, Winning Wednesday, Tailgate Thursday and Red Friday.
Patton Principal Ryan Wiebe said the Spirit Week allowed for the staff and students to share in something fun.
“It is to celebrate being residents of the area and supporting a local sports team,” Wiebe said. “The more we can do to bring a family atmosphere or bring all of our students and families together around a common purpose or something that is fun for the metro area and connect them to that area is some of the reasons we did it. We did it when the (Kansas City) Royals were in the World Series.”
Michele Gregor, Patton, Bradley Elementary and Eisenhower Elementary School occupational therapist, said it is fun for students when they can band together.
“Even if they don’t have a Chiefs jersey, kids are wearing red and just anything that relates to the Chiefs,” Gregor said. “I’m a huge Chiefs fan, actually, and I’m so excited for the Super Bowl coming up. I love that the schools have embraced it.”
Gregor is more than just an average Chiefs fan. She was a Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleader for the 2001, 2002 and 2005 seasons.
“If you walk down the halls of the schools, you’ll see Chiefs flags, you’ll see the staff in Chiefs gear, and it just raises everyone’s spirit,” she said. “It makes the week just so much more fun.”
At Bradley, the Spirit Week themes were a little different for staff and students. For staff it was Mahomes Monday, Tailgate Tuesday, Wednesday Break Away like (Travis) Kelce and join us for “Break-fast,” Andy Reid “Red” Thursday, and “Nacho Bar” Bowl Friday for the staff. For students it was Slip Into “Super Bowl” Week Monday; Touchdown Tuesday; “Miami” Wednesday; Red “Reid” Thursday or Patrick “Mahomie” Day.
“As military families, we are used to moving to new places and immersing ourselves in the area’s culture and traditions,” said Michaela Culkin, Bradley principal. “The Chiefs have a strong bond with our military community, and they have visited our military families and worked with our students.”
Perhaps the most popular player currently on the team, quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been one of the players who has visited Fort Leavenworth.
“We feel Patrick Mahomes is a great example of a leader, and with us being a ‘Leader in Me’ school, we are always looking for positive role models and leaders for the students,” said Paula Murphy, Bradley third-grade teacher.
“There are so many professional athletes out there that are not good role models, but somebody like Patrick Mahomes, he is one that is always ‘My teammates did this. My teammates did that,’” Paradies said. “He is very humble. He just seems like an all-around good guy.”
The schools were not the only ones getting into the spirit as several post employees and units were embracing the event.
Neil Bass, Directorate of Public Works natural resources specialist, dyed his beard red for the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
“I have really been a Chiefs fan since 1995 when I lived in Kansas, but I have liked them since the 1970s,” Bass said. “I enjoy the Chiefs running game, it embodies the physicality. They have had some powerful running backs from Christian Okoye, Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles.”
Various organizations and units on post have celebrated, too. Watch parties and celebrations were conducted by the Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club and the 15th Military Police Brigade.
The Chiefs were definitely in the forefront of the celebrations for 705th MP Battalion (Detention) Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Shad, who has been a Chiefs fan and collector of memorabilia since 1996. He said he grew up watching football in southern California and was a Rams fan while they were still in Los Angeles.
“Then, they moved to St. Louis, (Mo. in 1995), so I didn’t have a team,” Shad said. “Long story short, I came here and became a Chiefs fan and then met my wife, Erica, in 1997, and she’s from Kansas City and, of course, is a Chiefs fan. Then, the rest is history.”
Shad currently has many Chiefs items in his home and office. Notable items in his collection include a seat from Arrowhead Stadium, artificial turf from the 1984-1993 stadium, and a bottle of wine commemorating the first Super Bowl the Chiefs won in 1970.
“For me, you can be a great football player and never touch the ball,” Shad said. “Football to me, it brings people together. … It becomes part of a family like tradition for most people that are really into football, and most people that are really into football have a team that are associated with that like the Chiefs.”
With the Chiefs officially Super Bowl LIV champions after a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers, the celebration continued for USD 207, Bass and Shad with the celebration parade Feb. 5 in downtown Kansas City, Mo.
“This is an exciting time for Kansas City. For the first time in 50 years, Kansas City is coming together to celebrate the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win and being world champions. It is expected to draw more than 800,000 people for the parade,” according to an official statement from the school district. “In light of this significant regional event and after much discussion, it was decided that it would be difficult to maintain a normal school day. USD 207 will be closed on Wednesday, Feb. 5. The decision to close school is related to city-wide concern about available staffing and substitutes, along with a number of families planning to attend the celebration.”
Bass said he has been waiting for the Super Bowl parade for years.
“I have been looking forward to the Chiefs celebration parade since we got Alex Smith, and we had a chance to make it to the Super Bowl,” he said.
Shad said he talked himself out of going to the Super Bowl, but wouldn’t miss the parade.
“I know I’ll regret it if I don’t go,” he said.