He is everyone's favorite furry friend.

With engaging eyes, floppy ears and a competitive gritting of the teeth, he's otherwise known as "Champ," the beloved mascot of the Ashford University athletics department.

Throughout the academic school year, Champ can be found roaming the stands at the Saints' home events and is also actively involved around the community, making appearances at Clinton LumberKings baseball games and the city's "Downtown Night Glow" during the summer.

Sarah Bogue, creator of the Champ costume, stands next to her finished product

Numerous students and volunteers take on the dubious task of donning the heavy outfit, which includes a helmet-like mask, to provide thrills to young fans and the Ashford student body with high-fives and the occasional break-dancing move.

But the creation and origin of Champ deserves mention after the University needed a mascot in the spring of 2006. That's when current Ashford student, Sarah Bogue, then an employee at Facemakers Inc., in nearby Savanna, Ill., stepped forward with intuition and an idea to help Champ make his official debut in May of 2006.

Facemakers, Inc., is an organization that creates costumes used widely in cinematic productions, including Disney and other companies worldwide. Bogue also was a part of Facemakers, Inc.'s, most famous creation, Smokey the Bear.

Bogue, a graduate from Mt. Carroll High School, attended Highland Community College in Freeport, Iil., for two semesters before deciding to continue her pursuit of a degree through Ashford's ASPIRE program (For more information about ASPIRE, click here).

"I'm very proud to say that I took part in the making of our Ashford University mascot," she says.

Appropriately enough, Champ should be on the stage to congratulate her as she receives her diploma on graduation day.

Photos courtesy of Larry Libberton, Ashford University Director of Communications