Snoopy, Nailers Team For Campaign

WHEELING — Snoopy is joining the Wheeling Nailers to share an anti-smoking message with youth in the community.

A larger-than-life figure of the cartoon character received a contract Thursday with the Nailers. The sculpture, which has been resting in Peterson Rehabilitation Hospital’s garden for 10 years, will be transformed into “Joe Nailer Too Cool to Smoke” and will take up permanent residence at WesBanco Arena.

The anti-smoking campaign is the brainchild of Ohio County health officer Dr. William Mercer, who presents “Joe Too Cool to Smoke” Snoopy programs at area schools.

Mercer, serving as Snoopy’s “agent,” and Howard Karnell, who handles the Nailers’ corporate partnerships, signed the contract in the Peterson garden.

“After sitting here rehabbing for 10 years, Snoopy will be taken to Minneapolis tomorrow and refurbished as ‘Joe Nailer Too Cool to Smoke,'” Mercer said.

The large statue, which will sport a team jersey and goggles and carry a hockey stick, will be unveiled Nov. 13 at the arena during a Nailers game to be attended by 5,000 area students, the health director said.

Wheeling Hospital and Peterson Rehabilitation Hospital are sponsoring Snoopy’s transformation, along with Mercer and the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department. The Tuberculosis Association of Ohio County is making a contribution to have special T-shirts made for students attending the “Joe Nailer Too Cool to Smoke” program and hockey game, but additional sponsors are needed for the T-shirt project, he said.

This Snoopy figure is the second one that Mercer has acquired for the community. The first sculpture, dubbed “Joe Too Cool to Smoke,” resides in Mercer’s private practice office at the Wheeling Clinic and travels with him on educational outings.

In May 2007, Mercer suggested “Joe Too Cool to Smoke” as a theme for artists who designed 100 different versions of the popular beagle from Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip. The Schulz family gave Mercer permission to use the special Snoopy for school programs.

A year later, Mercer acquired the second Snoopy, which had been displayed at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, through an eBay auction. He wanted to transform the figure into “Joe Too Cool to Use Spit Tobacco,” but officials in Schulz’s company nixed the idea and Snoopy was relegated to the Peterson grounds.

Despite the setback, Mercer incorporated baseball legend Joe Garagiola’s anti-spit tobacco campaign into his educational programs.

“Joe Garagiola, who was a good friend of the Schulzes, called me,” Mercer said. “He talked to me and my wife for an hour. He sent the material for their spit tobacco program.”

Meanwhile, Jeanne Schulz, the cartoonist’s widow, has given her blessing for Snoopy’s new incarnation as “Joe Nailer Too Cool to Smoke,” he said.

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