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Mascot makes the crowds cheer - though he can't hear them

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) Kamron King's goal as the mascot at Portland High School is, of course, to make the crowds cheer - even though he can't hear them.

The 15-year-old freshman, who began donning a bulldog suit at last fall's football games and now works the sidelines at basketball games, is deaf. But he said that doesn't interfere with his performances, other than the occasional need for someone to direct him toward young children in need of a high-five.

The costume's heavy mask obscures his vision, and he can't hear when people want his attention. But he's making up for it by studying hard.

''I watched a couple videos of people being mascots, acting funny and whatnot,'' Kamron said in response to questions translated by an ASL interpreter. ''I wondered if it was something I could do, and be the first hard-of-hearing mascot of Portland High School.''

Kamron is from Saco, south of Portland, is also on the winter track team and makes basketball games when his own athletic schedule doesn't interfere. He was born with profound hearing loss, though he can hear somewhat through his left ear with a hearing aid, and attended Governor Baxter School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing prior to coming to Portland High School, said his father, Michael.

Kamron describes his experience performing as no big deal for a deaf kid, but Michael said his son has overcome a lot to become a mascot. His balance gave him trouble when he was younger, and he has had to make considerable progress to be able to maneuver around in a costume that is frequently uncomfortable, unwieldy and hot, Michael said.

Kamron's mother, Debi, said performing as the mascot is a natural fit for a kid who loves sports and costumes.

''His nickname's `Kam the Ham' for a reason,'' she said. ''He's quite the entertainer, and he always keeps us laughing.''