Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 2006

THS cheerleaders extend helping hand

December 20, 2006

Tonganoxie High School cheerleaders aren't just cheering for athletic teams.

They're cheering for children who are hospitalized.

Friday, members of the squad loaded toys onto a school bus and took off in their first "Cheer for Children" mission.

The squad's sponsor, Sandy Saultz, said the cheerleaders decided to collect toys to give to children in a hospital.

They settled on the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.

"KU was ecstatic," Saultz said. "They have a toy closet they keep toys in all year to give to kids in traumatic situations or who are in the hospital for long periods of time ... to brighten their day."

Cheerleaders started out collecting toys at school. Then, they branched out, calling the Bonner Springs Wal-Mart to see if they could stand outside the store for a day and ask shoppers to buy new toys to donate.

And the shoppers came through, donating dozens of toys, and even donating cash.

Friday morning the cheerleaders boarded a school bus and headed to Kansas city, Kan., to deliver the toys.

Junior Jessica Derzinski said it was a great experience.

First of all, she said, it took about 30 minutes to unload the toys. Hospital officials had told them the gender and ages of the pediatric patients, and the girls began taking the toys to the rooms.

They presented the toys, and when requested, did a cheer or two.

The cheerleaders gave a baby doll to a preschool girl.

"Her mom got really emotional," Jessica said. "She started crying ... and made most of us cry. ... It just made us feel really grateful for all that we have."

Elise Drennan, also a junior, said she enjoyed the entire project -- from collecting toys at Wal-Mart to the hospital visit.

"I liked the fact that we actually delivered them," Elise said. "Seeing the reaction on the kids' faces when we gave them the toys."

The girls also sang Christmas carols.

"I think it was an amazing experience," Elise said. "And it was very touching."

For ninth-grader Lacey Moore, it was the mother of a child she will remember.

"You could really see the relief on her face and how grateful the people were for us to be there," Lacey said. "I think a lot of people should experience that because it really does make you feel good."

The cheerleaders also delivered lap blankets and T-shirts to an adult rehabilitation facility.

From start to finish, it was a project worth doing, Elise said.

"We wanted to make it an annual thing now," Elise said.

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