Six years ago, Jon and Tammy Estes, co-owners of Miss Tammy’s All-Star Company in Cleburne, Texas, sought a way to make a difference in their community. As satisfying as it was for them to work with local youth in the gym environment, the couple wanted to do more. When a local boy developed neuroblastoma (the most common form of cancer in children), they knew they’d found their cause.
Research has shown that volunteering can provide a number of physical and emotional benefits. Estes and his wife discovered this firsthand when they designed T-shirts bearing a “Children’s Cancer Arm Bands” logo to help fight pediatric cancer.
One dollar from the sale of each shirt was designated toward pediatric cancer research, and so far, their efforts have garnered $3,000 to date. Their excitement and passion for the cause spread to their athletes, who enthusiastically got involved in the campaign.
“The kids love the [giving aspect] and their parents are so proud of them,” says Estes. “This has such a positive effect on them. They are not just concerned with winning on the mat, but winning in life.”
While some individual gyms are promoting charitable causes, Spirit Celebration owner Billy Smith realized that the cheer community as a whole could be doing much more. He decided the industry needed a platform on which “cheer celebrities could enhance cheer charities.” To achieve that goal, he created “Amazing! Champions,” high-profile competitions that bring awareness to the importance of philanthropy and promote greater participation.
Smith explains that each team selects a charity or cause and then competes for prize money, which is awarded to those charities. “We interview every kid about the charity before the competition, and some gyms submit videos of what they are doing with these charities. Many of them have personal stories to tell,” he says. “It’s very emotional. We are trying to make winning about someone else. The whole concept stems from passion.”
This year “Amazing Champions” expects to give away $10,000. “In five years, I’d like to give away $100,000,” states Smith.
Julie Bolton of Orlando, Florida, was aiming for an even wider audience when she launched Cheer for a Cause in 2010. Designed to bring together all-star gyms and athletic facilities from around the world, the organization fosters volunteerism. “Our core goal is to unify giving from the heart within the community,” she says. “We are developing leaders in giving back.”
What initially started as a Facebook group/social media effort has morphed into people taking initiative all over the world. Teams now spearhead their own charity efforts and can partner with Bolton to use the Cheer for a Cause logo to get more awareness and support. More than 20 different charities have benefited so far, including Habitat for Humanity projects, breast cancer awareness campaigns, epilepsy fundraisers and specific events for individuals touched by illness or tragedy. “We have teams in Europe, ambassadors in France, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Canada and New Zealand,” Bolton notes. “It makes the kids feel we are all connected.”
18-year old Kayley Cabalero, an ambassador for Cheer for a Cause in Carl Junction, Missouri, took the lead on relief efforts for victims of the 2011 tornado in Joplin. With a built-in philosophy of giving—her family has routinely shared its good fortune with others at Christmas—Kayley felt compelled to help after witnessing the destruction so close to her hometown. To date, she has amassed 100 pounds of clothing as well as many gift cards. “I wanted to do something geared toward teens, so I collected sports supplies, cheer bows, soccer equipment,” she says. “Every time I receive a box of donations, it’s like Christmas. I get so excited being able to help others, especially after seeing the devastation firsthand.”
Not only are these cheerleaders offering much-needed assistance to those with critical medical, financial or social needs, they are also nurturing compassion for others and dedication to service. Kayley noted, “We’re more than just individual members working on separate projects. When one of us needs the other, we act as a support system. We really are one big family.”
Stay tuned to our blog on Thursday for a rundown of all the ways volunteering can benefit your body!