Homecoming: Cheering for a cause
By MELODY KARPINSKI / Santa Rosa Correspondent
On the football field, homecoming at Cardinal Newman High School was a fight to the finish against rival team Santa Rosa High School. But at half-time, cheer squads from both schools brokered a period of détente.
The girls joined together on the field for several numbers they had been practicing for weeks, a joint effort to highlight October as breast cancer awareness month. The Oct. 5 game was the first of several games at which both squads will focus on that theme.
After the game, Santa Rosa Cheer Coach Tina Maffia said, “(Our) cheer team is proud to join with the Cardinal Newman cheer team to promote and support such a great cause. Community outreach is an important part of our program.”
Cardinal Newman Cheer Coach Elizabeth Stimmel agreed, saying, “I think it’s really important for cheer teams to be involved in the community.”
Eighteen of the 37 cheerleaders involved that night had personally been affected by someone with breast cancer, many of them relatives or friends, Maffia said. Her squad was also inspired by Santa Rosa High English teacher Megan Whyte, who left shortly after the start of the 2011-2012 school year to receive treatment for breast cancer.
“I think it’s really neat that we’re coming together as girls for this,” said Kaela Wall, 17. She is a senior at Cardinal Newman and is beginning her third year with the team. She also is the 2012 Miss Sonoma County Outstanding Teen.
Santa Rosa High junior Jamika Jan agreed, saying, “It’s coming together for a common cause, and I really like that idea.” Jan, 16, has participated with the cheer team since her freshman year.
Cardinal Newman team members wore bright pink hair bows for the event, while the Santa Rosa High Panther cheers wore T-shirts printed with a pink ribbon and “Paws for a Cause.”
“The night was fabulous,” said Stimmel. “Our announcer spread the word about what we were doing with great support from the crowd.”
October’s breast cancer focus is not the first community event for either of the cheer teams. The Santa Rosa team raised money in 2011 for the cheer team in Joplin, Mo., which had been hit by a devastating tornado. Cardinal Newman cheers recently participated in a local “Light the Night” walk, an effort by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to raise cancer awareness.
The Cardinal Newman cheer team will return to the football field Oct. 19 for a second breast cancer awareness event, where even the football players will wear pink for the cause.
“We will be in complete pink,” said Stimmel, “banners, balloons, speakers, football players, the cheer team and fans.”