OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — Hundreds of students from all over the state came out for the Wisconsin Herd's special matinee game today.
“It feels it's like a dream," said Jasmine Peralta, fourth grade student. "And it's like really cool because I've never been to a basketball game before."
This wasn't your average field trip; School Day with the Herd was centered around promoting mental health.
“We want them to understand that there's always somebody there to talk to and always somebody there that will listen to them," said Steve Brandes, Wisconsin Herd President. "There's resources everywhere at their fingertips, and not to be afraid to go out and ask questions or let people know how they feel.”
Every year, the Herd picks an educational theme for the annual School Day. Previous themes have been STEAM, reading and health and fitness. This year's mental health theme featured Franki Jo Moscato, a local American Idol star, whose performance was centered around promoting mental wellness. Each student received a Franki Moscato Foundation brochure and Be Kind window cling. The Franki Moscato Foundation focuses on young adults to prevent suicide and promote mental wellness. In partnering with BMO Harris and NAMI Oshkosh, the Herd hosted more than 15 groups of students from schools all over the state. Each student got to take home a co-branded Herd and BMO lunchbox filled with food from Cousins Subs and a NAMI Oshkosh booklet on mental health. The NAMI Oshkosh booklet has activities that encourage kids to talk about their feelings and where they can go to find help if they need it.
“An athlete has this aura, or this persona, that kids look up to," said Brandes. "And having somebody at that level share their background or their story or or the topic really inspires kids to think about the topic differently.”
Mental health is a topic local teachers have been emphasizing, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“You want your mental health to be good because if it's not good, your body can shut down," said Trenton Gohlke, fourth grade student. "Some people get like a bad disease in their body. And it doesn't end up well for them.”
Students have found their own ways to help out a friend when they’re having a tough time.
“I usually make a smile at them," said Gema Evans, fourth grade student. "Tell them what their feelings are. And then they tell me it and I try to help them.”
“I just give them a hug," said Peralta. "And I just tell them it's going to be okay.”
“I usually say, 'It's okay," said Kaylee O’Neal, fifth grade student. "And I say, 'Just breathe, don't worry about it, and just feel good about yourself.'"
For these kids, a good basketball game was just what they needed for their mental health today.