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SJ Sharkie escorts students in Gilroy to school on first day

Mascot friendly face in California town that was site of recent mass shooting

by Pat Pickens @Pat_Pickens / NHL.com Staff Writer

The students at Ascencion Solorsano Middle School saw a familiar and friendly face on their first day of the new year Wednesday.

SJ Sharkie, the mascot of the San Jose Sharks, was at the school in Gilroy, California, escorting students to class less than three weeks after the town was the site of a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Tweet from @SanJoseSharks: The first day of school is hard. It���s even harder when the school borders the site of a recent tragedy. To make it a little easier, this morning @sjsharkie helped welcome back the students of Ascencion Solorsano Middle in Gilroy. #GilroyStrong pic.twitter.com/S1ieK0Lcyg

Gilroy is about 30 miles southeast of San Jose, and the middle school is adjacent to the town's Christmas Hill Park, where the festival has been held annually since 1979. A gunman killed three people and injured 12 more on the festival's third day, July 28.

Sharkie went on campus to greet the students with hugs and high-fives and lighten the mood on the first day. He also paid his respects to the victims of the shooting at a memorial set up nearby.

And Sharkie made sure to share some selfies on Twitter from his big day.

Tweet from @sjsharkie: #Sharkieselfie: This morning I am in Gilroy at Solarsano Middle welcoming the kids back with a hug & a hi-5. This school borders the site of the #GilroyGarlicFestival and the students are reminded of the tragedy every day. #NoPlaceIWouldRatherBe #GilroyStrong @nhl @SanJoseSharks pic.twitter.com/IftJjjG4E5

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