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Logan teen gets wish to work with Jazz Bear

By Kathy Aiken | Posted - Feb. 19, 2010 at 10:48 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Bear, of the Utah Jazz, is one of the best professional mascots in the country. He's not only a great entertainer, but one of the most generous men in the business. Tanner Smith, of Logan, found this out firsthand recently with the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Tanner is a senior at Logan High School and is looking forward to graduation.

"Science I've always been pretty good at; English, that kind of thing," Tanner told KSL News.

He's also been good at another kind of thing: Tanner is Logan's mascot: Grizzwald.

"Normally, I'm pretty shy and reserved; but when you put that on, you can't be that way," Tanner said. "It's a mascot's job to get the crowd going. You know, win or lose, that's their job; that's what you've got to do," Tanner said.

That's just what he did for nearly three years. But after the basketball season of his sophomore year, Tanner started having back pain.

"We finally just had enough and went to the hospital one day and did X-rays and a CT scan, and that's how they originally found it," Tanner said.

What is... Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma originates in your lymphatic system, the body's blood-filtering tissues that help fight infection and disease. Tumors develop when lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, divide too much and too fast. The cells then may overcrowd, invade, and destroy lymphoid tissues and spread to other organs.

"It" was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"It definitely changed my life," Tanner said. "As a teenager, you're [like], ‘It's not going to happen to me.' But it does; it can," Tanner said.

He went through chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He goes in for CAT scans every three months to make sure the cancer has not returned.

For his wish, Tanner wanted to meet his hero: Jazz Bear. At a recent Jazz game, he got that wish.

"Hey, Tanner. Bear just wanted you to know he's excited you could make it here tonight," Bear's handler told Tanner. "It's going to be an amazing experience for you to work in front of 20,000 people at an NBA game. We hope you have the time of your life and wish you the best going forward."

Tanner's fun began with pregame workouts, working out with several other NBA mascots who were in town to work the game as well.

"The biggest crowd I've done is when Logan High played a Rice-Eccles Stadium; and I don't know how many that was, but not near what this is going to be. We'll see how it goes," Tanner said.

"Being a mascot is like going through a personality change," He added. "When you get in the costume, it's like the mascot has to go wild and crazy, you know, pump up the fans."

Tanner did it that night, not only getting the fans pumped up, but getting his wish: to work with the best mascot in the business.

"Was it as fun as you hoped," KSL's Kathy Aiken asked.

"It was that and much more!" Tanner said. "Amazing! I can't thank him enough!"

Tanner's cancer is now in remission, but he still gets CAT scans every three months as a precaution.

The Logan native hopes for a career in aviation, possibly as a LifeFlight pilot.

E-mail: kaiken@ksl.com

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Kathy Aiken

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