Charlton Jordan promotes confidence and self acceptance in kids by taking on the form of a gentle beast.
Dressed as a golden-brown, shaggy-haired lion wearing blue basketball shorts, a bright red jersey and oversized tennis shoes, Jordan becomes Daniel the Lion when he interacts with kids at one of his programs.
The Daniel Experience, his faith-based mascot show, was performed for the first time in Altoona five years ago, and it came from a concept birthed in 1998 in California.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
Charlton Jordan of Altoona teaches kids that they are special when he portrays Daniel the Lion at various events throughout the city. He recently entertained kids at the African American Heritage Festival held at Penn State Altoona.
The mascot's identity is based on the biblical figure Daniel who lived a "life of excellence," according to Jordan of Altoona.
"Having Daniel be a lion was a play on words with the Bible story of Daniel in the lions' den," he said.
The story of Daniel's life can be found in the Old Testament book by the same name. It includes Daniel being thrown into a den of lions for refusing to worship the king of Persia. The lions do no harm to Daniel, and the king frees him.
"I chose a lion also because I wanted something simple that kids could get into," he said.
Jordan originally started his work in California and continued it when he moved to Altoona in 2005 to be a mascot coordinator for the Altoona Curve.
"We're a confidence mascot company," Jordan said. "We want kids to know that they're uniquely made and blessed with many gifts, each one making them special."
The vision is to see youth secure in their identity and walking confidently in their unique purpose, he said.
Now in his 15th year as a mascot, Jordan said he has never had "a negative return."
Complete with back flips, foot-races and inspiring messages, Daniel the Lion uses entertainment to influence youth and build beliefs in their abilities.
While a Christian-based message is performed in churches and at revivals, Jordon also brings a positive message to school shows and recreation centers.
Jordan offers four show choices and said that through them he wants to teach children to believe in themselves, that God has made them, and they are special and unique.
The shows include "Am I A Bully?" "Keep it Fit," "Keep It Clean Kids" and "Books In Motion." They focus on topics such as bullying, daily exercise and playing fair.
"I like to be Daniel because it takes down all the walls," Jordan said. "It allows people to be free to love me. I am more comfortable behind the mask because it takes away any prejudgments.
"I want to inspire children to be more confident in themselves and to be happy, and I want to make it fun. When you enjoy something you remember it better. They'll remember the message because they have fun learning it."
Jordan said he wants to instill a positive message into the hearts of the youth, and "a mascot is nothing more than a servant."
To help with The Daniel Experience, Jordan relies on a staff of three others: his wife, who hosts the show, as well as a substitute host and mascot.
One of the places where The Daniel Experience has been presented is at Crosswalk, 623 Seventh Ave.
It is an outreach for children that is a ministry of the Altoona Restoration Church of God in Juniata.
"It's tremendous," said Sally Swindell, one of the volunteers at Crosswalk, of The Daniel Experience programs.
"He interacts with the children very well," Swindell said. "He's very animated and does all kinds of flips, cartwheels and back-springs. The kids were very fascinated with him. He's a great guy and a wonderful Christian example for kids.
"He just wants to see the gospel spread in Altoona," she said. "He wants to be a part of ministry for kids in Altoona."