Meet Pachi the Porcupine, Toronto's Pan Am mascot

The mascot for the 2015 Pan American Games has been unvailed in Toronto, and it's Pachi the Porcupine, a design created by Grade 8 students in Markham, Ont.

Prickly character's 41 quills represent 41 nations participating in Pan Am Games

Pachi the Porcupine was greeted with plenty of applause at the CBC's Broadcast Centre in Toronto on Wednesday.

And fittingly enough, that's what the name of the official mascot for the 2015 Pan American Games represents when translated from Japanese.

"Pachi" is derived from a Japanese phrase meaning "clapping with joy," and that's exactly what enthusiastic kids and parents alike were doing when the multi-coloured mascot was unveiled at Kids' CBC Days.

But the four Grade 8 students from Markham, Ont. — whose design was chosen after earning the most votes in an online nationwide poll, beating out more than 4,000 entries — were caught off-guard by this kind of reception.

"It's unbelievable, because we were never expecting anything like this," Jenny Lee, who along with Buttonville Public School classmates Fiona Hong, Paige Kunihiro and Michelle Ing, came up with the design as part of a school project, told the CBC's Charlsie Agro.

But what may be equally surprising may be how the design — which includes 41 multi-coloured quills to represent all nations competing at the Games — began coming to fruition.

"[The name] came to me once when I was reading my manga book, which is a Japanese comic book. There was a Japanese phrase called 'pachi pachi,' and in English it translates to 'clapping with joy,"' said Kunihiro. "We know that in the Pan Am Games there's going to be a lot of cheering on our favourite athletes and superstars."

The contest they entered required that all entries use the official colours of the Games, so the various colours of the quills each represent the qualities Pachi has: green for youth, fuchsia for passion, blue for collaboration, orange for determination and purple for creativity.

"[The contest] is there to help our communities engage," Ian Troop, CEO of TO2015, told Agro. "It's to get the kids enthusiastic and thinking about these games in a personal way." 

The girls chose a porcupine for the anthropomorphic mascot because it's indigenous across North and South America.

"We were initially doing research about Canadian animals and Michelle came across the porcupine and we looked into that because we were like, 'well that's unique,"' said Lee. "She found out that they are found in all of the countries that are participating."

It's not just fans who will be able to identify with the mascot.

Canada's lone Olympic gold medallist from the London 2012 Olympics Rosie MacLennan, from Toronto, and Paralympic gold medallist Tyler Miller, from Kitchener, Ont., were also on hand to introduce Pachi in front of the hundreds of children.

And MacLennan thinks the mascot will help alleviate the stresses and pressures of competition.

"I use [mascots] as a comfort thing," she told Agro. "Going out to the Games for a final, one time I was imitating the dancing that the mascot was doing, so it's definitely something that's really close to the athletes' heart too."

CBC/Radio-Canada was awarded the host and Canadian broadcast rights for the 2015 Pan American Games and Parapan American Games in Toronto last September.

Teddy Katz, a former longtime national news radio reporter for the CBC who specialized in sports, took over as director, media relations and chief spokesperson last fall.

With files from The Canadian Press