Jean Ray couldn’t believe her eyes.
Armed with pink flamingos, members of the Haverhill High hockey team helped raise money for their program while also “honoring’’ Ray, an ardent sports booster, when they planted 100 of the plastic birds on her property.
“When my family came back from shopping that afternoon, I heard them laughing and running around outside,” said Ray, a Spanish teacher at Haverhill High.
Ray has been out on sick leave since the end of September, but plans to return to her classroom in early December. While her family was out of the house, members of the hockey team went there to deliver the birds — a recently hatched method of raising money for the team.
In addition to the birds, the players left a sign that read, “We hope you feel better Ms. Ray, our number one fan.’’
“That was the best surprise and best medicine ever,” Ray said.
The team and its boosters use the flamingos in this way: People donate money to send the flamingos to someone else’s lawn in good fun. One bird costs the sender $10, three birds cost $20, 12 birds cost $60 and 20 birds cost $100.
“There’s insurance as well,’’ said Haverhill High Hockey Boosters President John O’Neil. “The sender can buy insurance to prevent the recipient from sending back more flamingos.’’
The insurance costs $10 per policy.
A sports fan by nature, “I was a football pom-pom girl,” Ray said. She attends as many Haverhill High sporting events as she can.
“She has been one of our biggest fans,’’ Joshua Goldstein, a Haverhill High varsity hockey player, said of Ray. “Everyone likes her. She’s a fan of all our teams and goes to a lot of our games. We wanted to do something for her and to show the school’s appreciation,”
So Ray became the target of the pink flamingos.
As a hockey supporter, Ray understands the importance of the pink birds perched on her property. Hockey is Haverhill High’s most expensive sport and is not easy to budget. The ice time the school system finances vary and are expensive.
“The equipment is expensive, too,” said hockey coach Joseph Roberts. “Hockey sticks aren’t cheap anymore. They’re made up from composite materials and can cost $200.’’
“It can cost about $20,000 a year to run the program,” said Michelle Malone, former president of the hockey boosters.
The booster money comes from several sources, including the flamingos.
Malone said the hockey boosters raised money through a golf tournament at Bradford Country Club, a Christmas tournament, a Haverhill High School hockey dance and an alumni night.
Boosters Club President John O’Neil said it costs the team almost $14,500 a season for ice time. Add that to the cost of awards dinners and varsity jackets given to the players, and the expense tops the other sports at the high school.
“The jackets ... cost around $250 to $300 each,” O’Neil said.
When the young hockey players targeted Ray because of her support and encouragement, they did it with a sincerity that points to the appreciation of people like her in the community.
Ray has built a 30-year educational career in Haverhill, where she started teaching Spanish in the middle school before moving to the high school in 2002.
She is a graduate of the Haverhill High Class of 1971.