|Today's date: Thursday February 11, 2016||Vol 49 Issue 06|
We Cover The County...
Cheer On: Bears Cheerleading an instant hit with local girls, parents
by Chris Daponte
When Kimberley Lees and Cyndi Guthrie decided to started a local cheerleading club, they had no idea how quickly the idea would take off.
Less than two years after starting with a single mat in the Fergus sportsplex, Bears Cheerleading now boasts over 50 members on four teams, and on Jan. 28 the club will celebrate the grand opening of a new 3,000 square foot home in Fergus.
“It’s like your ‘other’ family,” Guthrie said of the close bond formed between the girls, coaches and parents.
Lees agreed, adding, “Sometimes we feel like we have 56 daughters.”
And like a family, Lees and Guthrie are hoping to instill the right message at Bears Cheerleading, including the importance of having fun and of performing benevolent acts.
“We’re quite unique from other All-Star Clubs,” said Lees. “We really try to promote local events and try to teach them the importance of being involved in their community.”
Competitions will always be a part of the sport, but rather than focusing solely on winning, like some clubs, Lees and Guthrie view the contests as more of a showcase and an opportunity to receive the feedback necessary to improve skills.
“Instead of just trying to compete and win trophies ... We try and tell the girls they need to do more than just things for themselves,” Guthrie said.
With that idea in mind, over the past year Bears Cheerleaders have encouraged participants at the Fergus Relay for Life cancer fundraiser and entertained residents at the Heritage River Retirement Home in Elora, among other community endeavours.
“It’s so positive,” Lees said of the feedback the club receives in the community. “So many people thank us and say, ‘what a nice surprise.’ ”
It’s exactly the type of reaction they envisioned several years ago when they came up with the idea for a local cheerleading club.
After repeated carpooling trips to Cambridge for their daughters’ cheerleading practices, the women began to wonder why more couldn’t be done for the sport in Centre Wellington and throughout the county.
They believed there existed a demand for a local club, and their backgrounds convinced them they could be the ones to take the plunge.
“It kind of just pushed us to do it,” said Guthrie, who used to live in the U.S., where she “cheered” since the age of 10. She has lived in Fergus for the past five years, but was surprised at the lack of All-Star Clubs in Canada when she first arrived north of the border.
Lees, who once cheered at the University of Guelph, now resides in Elora. She said the pair decided early on to go with the company name Cheer On Inc.
The Bears team name was chosen for no particular reason, to the use of the bear paw logo and the naming of teams for different age groups - including the gummy, teddy, panda,
kodiac and polar bears.
“‘Bears’ just kind of happened ... it just all clicked,” Lees said.
Both her and Guthrie settled on green and white uniforms (with gold trim) as an homage of sorts to the rich Celtic heritage in the Fergus area. That no other team was using green didn’t hurt either.
Bears Cheerleaders range in age from 3 to 18, with the majority coming from the Fergus/Elora and Guelph areas.
But the club is open to anyone and also boasts members from places like Alma, Rockwood and Ariss.
Lees laughs at the “pompom” and “cheering-on-thesidelines” stereotypes many people still associate with cheerleading.
The reality, she explained, is cheerleading has evolved into a year-round competitive sport in and of itself, featuring dancing, tumbling, pyramids, stunting and tossing. She said physical size, personality and even athletic ability are immaterial - anyone can be a cheerleader.
“It draws the quiet ones out, and those that are already outgoing can really take on a leadership role,” Lees said.
And though the club is still awaiting its first male member, Lees and Guthrie stressed gender shouldn’t deter anyone from becoming a Bears cheerleader.
They hope to soon bring in a tumbler to provide instruction just for boys.
And recently, Guthrie’s cousin Nathaniel Schucker, a member of the gold medal winning Canadian “co-ed elite” team at the 2010 World Cheerleading Championships, visited the Bears’ home in Fergus, to much fanfare.
“The girls just idolize him,” Lees said.
Guthrie explained Canada lags a bit behind the U.S. in terms of the popularity and development of the sport of cheerleading, but Canadians are coming along.
In Fergus, at least, the interest has perhaps never been higher.
“The girls come in excited and want to learn tricks they saw on the Internet,” Guthrie said with a smile.
Fergus’ Barb Dixon says the club has been a very positive influence on her daughter Lauren, who has been a Bears cheerleader from the very beginning and is constantly counting down the time until her next practice.
“It’s ... the coaches that make her feel this way,” Dixon said. “The thing that strikes me the most about Bears Cheerleading is how invested the coaches Cindy and Kimberley are. They truly care for each and every one of those girls.”
Both Lees and Guthrie say the parents themselves should take a lot of the credit for the success of the program and for the great environment created for members.
“The parents have been awesome,” said Lees, noting parents volunteered to run the club’s Christmas party and also to fundraise for buses and hotel rooms for a trip to a competition in the Niagara region.
In fact, “The whole family gets involved,” Lees added.
One of the biggest reasons the Bears even offer teams for older girls is because some siblings were seeing all the fun their little sisters were having at the club.
In the end, it’s all about family. Parents say the positive atmosphere seems to develop naturally at the club, thanks in large part to the owners stressing the importance of leadership, responsibility, community involvement, respect, teamwork and good sportsmanship.
“Over the past two years Cheer On Inc. has become an integral part of our family,” said Trish Granville, of Fergus, whose three daughters love being cheerleaders.
“It has brought my children closer together, as they now share common interests at cheer. It has also helped them respect and help others, through the numerous charity and community-based events the club has supported.”
Adds Dixon, “I have never been privy to an environment so richly invested in supporting one another, genuine positivity and commitment to being something. If for no other reason, I would want my daughter to be a part of this program for the kind of character it’s inspiring in her.”
Indeed, the club has come a long way in under two years.
But it hasn’t come without a lot of effort and dedication. The founders say assistance from local coaches, parents, businesses
(which they try to use as much as possible) and residents has been a vital part of the success of Bears Cheerleading.
“The community has been really, really supportive,” Lees said. “There have been a lot of people helping out.”
Guthrie added, “There’s no way we could have done all this on our own.”
And while running the club has become a little less stressful in year two, it has become almost a full-time job for the two women, who had to alter their “real jobs” in order to make more time for Bears Cheerleading.
But it’s not something either of them regret.
“This has become our life - and we love it.” Lees said. “To see the love grow from just Cyndi and I to what it is now, it’s just awesome.”
* * *
Members of the public are invited to attend the grand opening and official ribbon cutting for the club’s new “bears den” at 820 Gartshore Drive (units 24 to 26) in Fergus on Jan. 28 at 7pm.
For more information on the club visit www.cheeron.ca, email email@example.com or call 226-971-1614.
Vol 44 Issue 03
The Wellington Advertiser
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