Players Not the Only Ones Who Raise Money

Stevens High School cheerleader Nikki Root perfoms a backflip during a tumbling routine at the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in Hanover, N.H., on Aug. 2, 2014. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Stevens High School cheerleader Nikki Root perfoms a backflip during a tumbling routine at the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in Hanover, N.H., on Aug. 2, 2014. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

Hanover — Stevens High School was well represented at Saturday’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, with Cardinals Donald Pellerin and Kai Kleyensteuber earning starting positions on the field.

Stevens was also widely present amid the Twin State all-star cheerleading squad — and not just on the sidelines.

Coached for the fifth straight year by Cardinals cheering coach Jada Belt, the team carried four of her Stevens athletes. Much like the Shrine players, each of the girls participated in fundraising for the three Shriners Hospitals for Children the game benefits.

Stevens’ cheerleaders combined to raise well over $2,000, including about $1,600 by senior-to-be Anissa Girard. That was more than any cheerleader — or player — raised for the cause.

“As soon as Anissa was chosen for the team, she really jumped into the fundraising with both feet forward,” Belt said. “I think she raised $500 in the first week alone. She had a goal of $1,000 and, obviously, exceeded that by a lot.”

Girard was personally motivated by the need to help hospitals catering to children — her younger sister, Richelle, was hospitalized at a young age with a respiratory illness.

“I just think it’s really important, the work that they do,” said Girard, who had fundraising help from her dad, Todd. “It feels good to help people who need it.”

For the second straight year, the Stevens cheerleaders joined players for their trip to the Shriners hospital in Springfield, Mass., last Sunday. Since transportation for cheerleaders isn’t budgeted for the trip, the Cardinals cheerleaders — along with Newport cheerleader Bailey Hanson, also on the all-star team — carpooled in order to get there. It was well worth the gas money.

“We met a little girl named Abrianna with a broken leg, and she was being pushed by a little boy who I think had missing or (severely) burned ear,” Girard said. “To see them helping each other was pretty great.”

Haidyn Hawkins, another Stevens rising senior, was also touched by the moment. “I think we all thought he must have been her brother, but when we asked her, she said, ‘No, he’s my best friend.’ ”

The girls signed pom-poms, footballs and other gear for the children and watched videos about the treatment the hospitals perform. The facilities the game benefits treat children for orthopedic, burn, spinal cord, cleft lip and palate issues.

It was an educational experience for Nikki Root, another all-star cheerleader for Stevens.

“I just started cheering last winter, and didn’t even know what the Shrine Game was,” said Root. “It was such a cool thing to go to the hospital and see what the money was going towards. It made me feel good inside, for sure.”

Comprised of 16 cheerleaders from schools throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, the girls met just once this summer before convening in Hanover on Friday. It was at a four-hour practice, in the all-purpose room at Claremont Middle School, where the girls taught one another their favorite cheers and decided on ones for game day.

“There were a couple girls who couldn’t make it, but we recorded the routines and posted them (online) so they could learn them on their own,” Belt said.

The unit kept their choreography fairly basic, with limited stunts. Belt and assistant coach Jenn Ferland said they’d like to have eventually have more practice time and more elaborate routines.

The halftime show of the Shrine Game is dominated by the all-star marching band, who on Saturday performed Dropkick Murphys’ Shipping Up to Boston, Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Aerosmith’s Dream On during the intermission.

“We’d like to do more at games, but halftime right now is about the band,” Belt said. “At the same time, we don’t want to do any huge stunts and risk girls getting hurt right before their fall seasons start at their high schools.”

Make that college for Emily Charest. The recent Stevens graduate participated in Shrine festivities for the second straight year and plans to continue cheering during her freshman year at Southern New Hampshire University.

“(The Stevens cheerleaders) went to the hospital last year, too. It really means a lot to go there,” said Charest. “It’ll be a great memory going into college.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

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