TROY – The roar of the crowd gathered for the annual Spirit Night basketball game featuring Special Olympics players from Riverside Miami County grew louder as the Special Olympics cheerleaders took to the gym floor with some new friends.
As introductions were made for the evening’s game of Special Olympics players versus staff, volunteers and family members, the Riverside cheerleaders formed one line. They were followed by a line of mentors from the Troy schools’ cheerleaders, who helped them pump up the fans.
The evening’s cheers were the result of several weeks of practices between the schools’ cheerleaders and the Riverside cheerleaders under a first-year program.
Before the evening was over, the Riverside squad thanked the Troy schools’ girls for their time and encouragement with signed photos and other gifts.
“We couldn’t be more grateful for the time and dedication that the Troy cheerleaders gave to the Special Olympics cheerleaders this season. It was clear real friendships were formed, and we hope they stay connected for a very long time,” said Melissa Nichols, community relations director at Riverside, the Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Diane Cerbus, the volunteer coach for the Riverside cheerleaders, said the Troy cheerleaders volunteered to assist, showing up at practices and helping the Riverside cheerleaders with new cheers and movements.
“They are a dream to work with. I could just cry,” Cerbus said in an email earlier in the year. As the Troy cheerleaders came to practices, their numbers grew first from high school to the other school squads.
“My mom works here. She thought it would be a good idea for us to get involved,” said Troy cheerleader Sophia Virgallito, who suggested the activity to the other girls.
“We have been helping them choreograph a dance and taught them some cheers,” said Jasmine Romick, another Troy cheerleader.
As a group, the girls said they were glad they took time to meet and work with the Riverside cheerleaders.
“All of the girls have been coming a lot, they bonded with the girls to help them do what they want to, which is cheer,” said another Troy cheerleader, Haylee Bridge.
The Riverside cheerleaders now cheer during Special Olympics home basketball games, but plans are to also have them on the sidelines during Special Olympics flag football in the fall.
Members of the Riverside cheerleading program are: Laural Bolls, Maggie Bonderaunt, Haley Cerbus, Destiny Clark, Shelby Cost, Lisa Danzeisen, Camille Dean, Andrea Koether, Kristen Lawhorn, Sarah Nelson, Michael Sorauf (mascot), Jerri Jo Thomas, Jeannine VanCulin and Heather Wood.