Oh, Toledo…you had me at Hello. (No, really! You did!)

Toledo and I go waaaay back.

Growing up in SE Michigan, I was always proud to tell people “just north of Toledo” when asked exactly where I lived.  Our family spent many summer days traveling through the old underground tunnel to the Zoo, picnicking at one of our beautiful area Metroparks or consuming way too many hotdogs and bags of peanuts at a Mud Hens game.  I didn’t know much about baseball back then, but I loved going & I always felt drawn to old Ned Skeldon Stadium.  (Hint:  keep reading to find out why)

After high school, I opted to attend the University of Toledo, despite getting accepted to another small College in the Midwest.  I knew deep down that I wanted to stay home and that it would be the best decision for me.  I graduated after 4.5 years with a Bachelors degree in Communication, focusing on Public Relations – and had a blast doing it!  Being a Rocket afforded me to live at home with my parents and commute, but still feel like I didn’t miss out on the whole college experience.  Go Rockets!!

My last year at UT, I was lucky enough to land an internship with WGTE Public Broadcasting, which was operating out of an old building downtown on Huron Street.  Talk about a good time!  They let me get my hands into a little bit of everything, from helping plan major events to volunteering my time during their live Pledge drives.  The summer of 2000, the team was planning to promote their new children’s show, Clifford the Big Red Dog, at a Mud Hens game.  They rented a mascot suit for someone to wear at the game to get all the kids excited about tuning in.  When it arrived, it was painfully obvious that the short, unpaid intern (me) would be the only one who would fit in it, so I gracefully accepted the task and was excited to be headed back to Ned Skeldon Stadium, where I loved going so much as a kid.

Here is where I stop to give mad props to anyone who has ever donned a mascot suit.  (pause for props) That job is not as easy as it looks!  It was 95 degrees that summer day, kids were swarming me, begging for hugs and a “paw”tograph, and yanking on the tail of the suit.  Plus, you can’t talk at all, which is not my strong suit. I ended up having a great experience as Clifford and always recall that as one of the most special days of my life.  Here’s why…

This next part remains crystal clear like it just happened yesterday.  I took my breaks in the front ticket office, where I would remove the huge dog head and attempt to cool down.  I locked eyes with a handsome guy (the Director of Ticket Sales) working at his desk.  He smiled and said “Hello” as I stood, dripping sweat and red fuzz everywhere with my mouth gaping open at how crystal blue his eyes were.  I immediately thought “I’m going to marry this man” which was kind of insane since I never had a reaction like that before in my life.  I left that day wondering about the blue eyed stranger, but I never got his name!

Fast forward two weeks.  I ran into him downtown at a restaurant while out with friends.  After having to re-introduce myself as “Clifford” before he or his buddies recognized me – I remember taking his hand…and I’ve never let go!  We were married in Toledo a short two years later and Muddy the Mud Hen & Clifford the Big Red Dog both showed up (as a surprise to us) at our wedding reception.

Erik and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this year, we have four beautiful children and he just finished his second season as General Manager of the Mud Hens.  Needless to say, Toledo has been nothing but good to us and we love living & raising our family here in NW Ohio.

Over the years, having a nearly first hand glimpse into watching the downtown area grow has been so inspiring.  Being able to witness the additions of Fifth Third Field, The Huntington Center & the entire Hensville project as well as countless other businesses converging on Toledo has brought me so much joy. The current downtown development that is adding to the renaissance is equally thrilling to watch.  The pride and excitement for the change is palpable & contagious.

Way to go, Toledo!  You’ll always have our hearts.

Of course we meet up with Jill at the home of the Mud Hens where that momentous life event happened – it’s just a shame we couldn’t find a Clifford the Big Red Dog outfit in time for the shoot!!