Hokie Bird being held hostage for good cause - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Hokie Bird being held hostage for good cause


The Hokies men's basketball team welcomes #6 Duke to Blacksburg Thursday night -- and if they're going to pull off the upset, they'll need an energetic home crowd behind them. 

The Hokie Bird knows a thing or two about getting fans pumped, but earlier this week, he was Hokie-napped.  Now it's up to the Hokie Nation to ensure he makes it to the game.

Monday, a video surfaced online of an unsuspecting Hokie Bird being ambushed and carried away by a group of students.  Then a ransom note appeared on facebook, demanding $20,000 or 1,500 new members for their organization in exchange for his return.

"I think a lot of the younger students, the freshman class, are really worried about it," said Emily Tanner, a Co-Director of Virginia Tech Relay for Life and one of the Hokie Bird's captors.  "They want to see the Hokie Bird [at the Duke game].  It hypes everyone to have our mascot there."

They say students and Hokie fans alike are already starting to pay up.  And that's a good thing -- because unlike most kidnapping situations, these hostage takers are the good guys.

"You go in not knowing what to expect, how students will respond, what they'll say or think about it," said Thomas Lawler, Assistant Director of Virginia Tech Relay for Life.  "But it's pretty amazing.  We've seen throughout the years students come together and do anything to the fullest of their abilities."

Virginia Tech Relay for Life has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society over the years -- and has already racked up more than $115,000 for their upcoming relay event on April 19.

With only two months left in their fundraising campaign, they wanted to see what would motivate people to give more.  And it appears a ransom on the Hokie Bird was a smart decision.

"We're on track," said Bryan Wynkoop, Co-Director of Virginia Tech Relay for Life.  "We've been seeing at least $5,000 a day."

As of Thursday morning, they'd collected about $18,000 of the $20,000 ransom and got 275 new participants registered for the relay.  All money raised and all new sign-ups prior to Thursday night's tipoff at 9:00pm will count towards freeing the Hokie Bird.  The group says it would be a shame if their mascot had to miss the game.

"We'd love to release him for the game," said Wynkoop.

If you'd like to help free the Hokie Bird or learn how you can register for the relay, visit www.vtrelay.org.


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