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Oregon Family Magazine

Vamps With School Spirit

10/01/2018 15:01 ● By Sandy Kauten
They fly through the air, they have superhuman strength and agility, they put the bite on you time after time, and they can completely take over your life.

Vampires? I wish! I’m talking about cheerleaders.

My 16-year-old daughter Wendy is on the junior varsity squad at Good Times Regional High School. She is a “flyer.” That means the other girls grab the soles of her feet and thrust her up into the air to be the peak of their human pyramid. When they break the formation, she’s the one who plummets down, depending on the other girls to catch her.

If you’ve seen the procedure, you’ve said, “Omygod! I’m so glad that’s not my child!” The flyer is trusting her spinal column to a half-dozen teenage girls, who are about equally divided among her best friends, worst enemies, and the undecided. But you wouldn’t pick any of them to pack your parachute, especially if their boyfriends think you’re cute. It is horrifying to watch, and I’ll tell you something: They don’t always catch the flyer.

(My oldest daughter, Marie, who sprained her ankle at a leadership-training weekend, thinks there should be a support group for people who’ve been injured while playing trust games.)

All the cheerleaders at Good Times Regional are flyers in that they all jet off to Florida each February to compete in the Nationals. So from July until takeoff time, the girls are feverishly raising money.

Besides working out and practicing, the girls wash cars; serve refreshments at school events; host breakfast with Santa for little kids; run cheerleading clinics for middle-sized kids; and sell candles, frozen pizzas and chrysanthemums. But that isn’t quite enough, so the girls stand outside supermarkets holding donation cans and asking, “Would you like to donate to Good Times Regional cheerleading?”

And a good percentage of shoppers pay up as if they’ve been asked to help Purple Heart veterans, apparently thinking, “Cheerleaders give so much, and all they ever ask in return is ‘Gimme a G, gimme an O...’” Or maybe, “Cute girls begging in the streets? I must support this!” Or maybe, “Cheerleaders once pulled my parents out of a burning car...”

All right, I admit it. I can’t imagine why the money pours in.

At first, I’d frowned on the idea of Wendy panhandling. I didn’t want her to be encouraged in her belief that the best way to get money is to just ask for it. But I’ve changed my mind for two reasons.

1. If people really want to send cheerleaders to Florida, it is not cost-effective to buy $20 worth of chrysanthemums just to put $5 into the girls’ peppy little palms. Fifteen of the dollars they’ve just coughed up aren’t moving even the tiniest cheerleader one inch toward the Sunshine State.

2. The panhandling broadens my daughter’s financial horizons. It shows her there are millions of people in the world who might give her money. Her daddy is only one of them, and not the most wealthy or generous one, either.

The scope of the parents’ and girls’ commitment was sketched out for a couple dozen moms and me at my first meeting of the Cheer Booster Club in the high school library one night back in June. Then money was collected – for special personalized practice outfits, and for a week of cheerleader camp, and for weekly “cheernastics” lessons. At mid-meeting I whispered to my friend known as Brenna’s Mom: “I can’t keep up with this; I’m going to hide in the bathroom.”

Please don’t think that I have a checkbook instead of a heart, but it HAS replaced my jaunty smile as my most popular feature.

I do have a heart, and although I don’t consult it often enough, it is thrilled that Wendy is working at something she’s excited about. And I’m grateful to the energetic moms who run the Booster Club; they have figured out how to make things happen for the girls and how to mobilize the rest of us for the cause. There are meetings to attend, transportation to provide, fundraisers to chaperone, publicity to arrange, more checks to write, and many, many emails to read.

Alpha moms, I’m yours to command.

I only hope that my wife doesn’t get jealous when she sees all these other women pushing me around.

Rick can be reached at rickepstein@yahoo.com. But don’t contact him unless you want to buy a chrysanthemum.