Ivethe Kenkel learned just days ago that she shares a birthday with a cool downtown cat: Milo the Lynx. She already feels a special kinship — not to mention pride in her new school – thanks to the young and spry CU Denver mascot.

Kenkel, a transfer from Southern California, started at CU Denver this semester to study criminal justice. She wasn’t about to miss Milo’s 1st birthday celebration, which drew about 300 students, faculty and staff for everything a first birthday should have — hats, cupcakes, popcorn, pinatas, cotton candy, cookies, face painting, gifts and balloons.

“I had to come and share my birthday with him,” said Kenkel, who turned 27 on Tuesday. “I love it here at CU Denver. I love the downtown location and everybody is really friendly. I’m from Los Angeles, so I’m used to the city life. I fit right in.”

And so does Milo, who was created by the Student Government Association as a way to give CU Denver a sense of its own community, identity and spirit.

“Every school has to have an identity, something everyone can connect with,” said SGA member Scott Cao. “Here at CU Denver, we’re the Lynx. Everyone sees Milo and they’re like, ‘Oh, dang, I’ve got to get a picture of Milo.'”

As the loudspeakers in Tivoli Turnhalle blared the Beatles’ “Birthday,” the CU Denver Cheer and Dance team danced with Milo while students, faculty and staff checked out the party-style booths filling the room. Raul Cardenas, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs, gave the furry critter a big birthday hug on the Turnhalle stage. “This is a historic moment for us,” Cardenas said. “Milo, you’re tremendous, a little furry, and really cute. What we heard from our students was that they wanted something to be a part of, something that represented our community, something that represented CU Denver.”

He thanked former SGA President Ronson Fox and Vice President Natalia Gayou, both of whom attended the birthday party, for their vision and work, along with the rest of SGA, in creating Milo. “He started because of our community at CU Denver, and our faculty and staff,” Cardenas said.

Jenifer Phan, a senior studying public health, iced cookies with fellow student Janae De La Virgen at the cookie table. “I think it’s great,” she said of Milo. “It’s bringing everybody’s excitement up, because we never had a mascot before.”

De La Virgen likes the feistiness of the 1-year-old Milo. “He’s super cute and he likes to party with the students. I think he’s fun.”

Other mascots from the Auraria Campus joined in the celebration. Rowdy (MSU Denver) and Swoop (Community College of Denver) presented gifts and danced with Milo before attendees cut his cake, adorned with a large glitter-spangled No. 1, and sang a boisterous “Happy Birthday.”

“I think Milo is a good addition to our school,” said Elizabeth Hearne, a senior studying music business. “He really brings more of a community feel to our campus.”

Before the celebration ended, Lubna Mazin, current SGA vice president and member of the Cheer and Dance team, part of a burgeoning CU Denver Club Sports program, asked the crowd trivia questions about Milo and CU Denver. Mazin and other dance team members tossed mini Milos — stuffed versions of the 1-year-old — to anyone yelling out the correct answer from the hat-, balloon- and streamer-laden crowd.

CU in the City logo