Mother Daughter Legacy – More than Your Average Bears
February 17, 2023
Above: from the left, Maddie Cabot and Dana Hoffman
It was the fall of 1989 when Dana Hoffman ‘94, a UNC freshman eager to get involved in her new college community, found the perfect opportunity to pounce on.
“I was the mascot in high school and when I was touring UNC, the tour guide was a cheerleader,” Hoffman said. “She and I got to talking and she said UNC didn’t have a mascot. So, we exchanged numbers and as soon as I got up to UNC, I gave her a call and said, ‘hey, do you guys still need a mascot?’”
The university did and with previous experience, Hoffman was a shoo-in. Back then, though, the bear mascot wasn’t named Klawz like he is today. He was called Bentley Bear and looked a lot different.
“Klawz is really fun faced, where mine looked like it had real bear teeth in the head,” Hoffman said. “It didn’t smell good. There was no ventilation back then.”
Hoffman cheering as Bentley Bear at a UNC football game.
Hoffman as Bentley Bear posing for a picture with a fan.
Hoffman taking a break from being Bentley Bear.
Hoffman as Bentley Bear posing for a picture.
That didn’t spoil the magic she felt when she put on Bently Bear though, and after enough football games under her belt, often in 90-degree weather, Hoffman discovered some tricks to help her stay enthusiastic on the sideline.
“One homecoming game was particularly hot, so my parents came up and my father would connect straws together and place them in my water up to my bear head," Hoffman said. “But by the time you suck up the water, I would only get little amounts at a time.”
Since then, there have been many UNC mascot improvements. For example, Klawz has actual shoes versus faux fur attached to an elastic strap like Bently Bear had, and Klawz has muscles to look more super-hero-like, while Bently Bear’s costume laid flat.
Hoffman is glad to see the advancements. She’s still a fan of the mascot and often goes to many UNC sporting events just to watch Klawz in action, which is even more special since it's now her daughter in the bear suit.
“She called me and said, ‘guess what, I get to be the bear,’” Hoffman said. “I was so excited.”
Following in her mom’s paw-steps, Maddie Cabot also began her freshman year at UNC hopping into a furry suit and putting a bear head over hers, which takes at least 15 minutes every time. While having a daughter take on the unique role her mom once enjoyed seems likely, the pair says it was more of a happenstance.
“I wasn’t even planning on being the bear; for me it was all about cheer,” Cabot said.
Cabot chose to come to UNC in 2022 after making the Cheer Team as a flyer. Then her coach mentioned the open mascot position that includes scholarship opportunities, so she gave it a try.
“I just did it for fun and I was really good at it because I do a lot of TikTok dances, which gets the crowd involved,” Cabot said.
Now, Cabot is not only attending UNC to pursue a degree in Business with a minor in Criminology and Psychology, but she is also cheering on the Cheer Team and attending all other athletic events performing as Klawz.
“It’s a lot, but I’ve worked out a system of breaks because there’s a trailer I can sit down in and I have handlers to keep an eye on me,” Cabot said.
She also has her mom.
“Because she used to be the bear, after football games she would critique me on my games,” Cabot laughed. “She would say, ‘during this quarter you didn’t have a lot of energy, did you not sleep last night?’ And I was like jeez.”
“I find myself giving her advice like all parents do, but instead of that advice being about life lessons, it’s about how to entertain people dressed as a furry animal,” added Hoffman.
Above: watch Cabot and Hoffman discuss their journeys of becoming UNC's mascot
Along with that advice comes pride. Hoffman says the best part of being the mascot is seeing children's eyes light up when you give them a high-five knowing you just made their day, but it’s even better when you can witness your daughter doing the same.
“I see a lot of similarities in us,” Hoffman said. “We like to have fun in life and make people happy and smile. That’s what motivates us. I love to watch her because she was a dancer when she was younger, so as soon as music hits you can watch the little bear tail start going, then the whole body gets going and as a mom, it’s so fun. She’s still my little girl.”
The two share a unique bond representing UNC at different times that many can’t relate to. They say there’s a sense of confidence that comes with the job.
“No one knows who you are so even if you’re feeling shy, you put on the bear head and it’s like a whole new world,” Hoffman said.
And a lot of strategy.
“Klawz can’t talk so I’ve learned to incorporate big expressions and hand gestures,” Cabot said. “My favorite part of being Klawz is to mess with the athletes and goof around with the fans. I’ll look for certain people in the crowd that look more open or welcoming or are close to the cameras to interact with.”
“I liked to imitate the way people walk,” Hoffman added. “You mirror them because people’s body languages are hilarious if you pay attention to it.”
The mascot skills behind Hoffman and now Cabot will stay at UNC for at least three more years. Cabot plans to continue being Klawz her sophomore, junior and senior year with the goal of building Klawz’s presence on social media platforms. And Hoffman plans to continue being Klawz’s biggest fan.
“It wasn’t planned, but it is cool that we have a mascot legacy,” Cabot said.
– written by Sydney Kern