By Lynne Hendricks
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Sometimes dreams really do come true.
One minute, the city’s youngest crop of Clipper City football cheerleaders were performing a routine they had been rehearsing most of the football season for judges at the New England Cheer and Dance Competition in Boston.
The next minute, they were hearing their team called over a loudspeaker as the second-place winners, qualifying them to advance to the nationals in Walt Disney World in February.
It took a moment for the eight members of the “D” squad, made up of third- and fourth-graders, to comprehend what they had accomplished. But when reality set in, the crimson-and-gold contenders couldn’t contain themselves.
“It was hysterical,” Newburyport Youth Football League Cheerleading Director Hollis Caswell said. “They were all screaming, `We’re going to Walt Disney World.’”
The youngest Clipper cheerleaders had just finished up a season rooting on the city’s most winning football team, the undefeated and unscored against “D” team of the Newburyport Youth Football League.
Now the “D” team cheerleaders — one of 180 teams competing in Boston at the Nov. 10 event — were getting accolades, too.
Caswell said the enthusiastic bunch did its best to stand out with a number set to a modern compilation of dance tunes from Lady Gaga to Keisha. She said something about the routine struck a chord with judges.
“It was so darn cute,” Caswell said. “It was a cheer, a dance and a couple of pyramids.”
It took a moment for the parents of the cheerleaders to process the news as well, given the cost of attending the nationals. But Caswell said the parents quickly realized they had to do everything in their power to make the girls’ once-in-a-lifetime dream a reality.
At a hastily organized meeting to discuss the opportunity, parents talked about how they could ensure each child a ticket to the big show.
“We talked about it realistically,” Caswell said. “What was agreed on ... was that if we don’t try to take the opportunity, it may never happen again. Plus, the girls were just so excited.”
But it will come down to cost and the team’s ability to defray expenses with a series of fundraisers members are organizing.
In addition to airfare and hotel accommodations for three coaches and one parent to accompany each child, the girls will have to raise money to afford gym practice space leading up to the Feb. 9 and 10 competition as well as other supporting expenses. Total cost is estimated at $10,000 for the trip.
“We have to beef up the cheer,” said Caswell, who is planning to attend to help coach Brenda Medeiros organize and prepare the team. “They have to have metallic pompoms, megaphones and signs.”
In addition to the competition, the trip will include visits to the parks and a chance to meet cheerleaders from across the country.
“It’s a huge forum where you can see the best of the best compete,” Caswell said.
The first of the team’s fundraisers will take place at downtown Newburyport’s Invitation Nights tonight and again next Friday, Dec. 14. The cheerleaders will have a wishing tree for people to attach their fondest holiday wishes, and will spread holiday cheer by singing Christmas songs by request. Donations will be appreciated.
The team will also be hosting a Holiday Gift Wrap fundraiser at Michael’s Harborside on the Newburyport waterfront on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 17 and 18, from 4 to 8 p.m., with Cheer Moms wrapping gifts for the public.
Finally, a dance and silent auction will take place on Jan. 12 at the Phoenix Room in downtown Newburyport. The event will include music, dancing, a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, cash bar and more. Tickets are $10.
For more information on how to contribute or participate in helping to send the girls to the nationals, email firstname.lastname@example.org.