In a wolf's clothing

By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

Fifth-grader Wesley Jones got more than he bargained for when he raised his hand to volunteer Tuesday afternoon.

Before Jones knew it, he was dressed in the Kansas City Chiefs' mascot uniform and wiggling his 85-inch hips before the students and staff at Washington Elementary School.

K.C. Wolf and his portrayer, Dan Meers, visited five Hays elementary schools Tuesday, ending his day at Washington, to spread his message about the importance of reading.

"Maybe you don't feel like you're a very good reader yet, and that's OK," Meers said. "Because reading is kind of like playing football. ... If you guys want to get to be better readers, you know what you're going to have to do -- practice, practice, practice."

Meers encouraged the students to read for relaxation, something he still enjoys after long days in the K.C. Wolf costume.

"This summer or when you get home from school, it's OK to have a certain cartoon you like to watch. But when your show is over, turn your TV off and go out and do other activities or spend time reading because that really is a lot better for you," Meers said.

Meers encouraged students to continue reading throughout their lives in order to continue their education. He referenced 98-year-old Fort Hays State University student Nola Ochs as an example of lifelong learning.

"Whatever you want to do, you should never stop learning," Meers said. "You should always try to learn new things."

And while Meers was there to encourage students to read, he also was there to entertain, telling students about his job as the Chiefs' mascot, a job he has had for 20 years.

"I get paid to act goofy, which is kind of nice because I used to get in trouble for that in school," Meers said. "There's hope for some of you guys out there."

Jones said wearing the costume was "pretty cool."

"I need to grow though," the fifth-grader said after wearing the wolf's hula-hoop hips around his ankles.

Jones enjoyed the presentation Tuesday afternoon, but he already was an avid Chiefs fan.

"Best team around," he said.