Milford cheerleaders need help reaching Disney

MILFORD — About two dozen young girls from around the Milford area are planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney thanks to their dedication to cheerleading through the Pop Warner organization.

Cheer mom Kristy Wise said their group of 22 girls will compete in Division Three in Disney as long as they can make it to the regional competition this weekend.

“There’s only two teams for our division in our regional competition. So as long as they go and compete in New Jersey, they will go to the national competition in Disney,” she said. “To these girls, this is something that a lot of them, I get upset when I talk about this because they’ve worked so hard, it’s something these girls have worked hard for since they were young. We kept saying, ‘Keep it together. They have a shot. They can do this.’ And it’s been disappointing when they don’t continue on. And here they are finally having a shot.”

While some of the girls on the squad have been together for several years, others are new this year. But all of them, ages 9-12 and mostly from the Milford School District, have worked equally as hard to make it to this point as they prepare for regional and national competitions, she added. Practices this year started in August four nights a week and decreased to three nights a week because school began.

“They got it because the group they have, it’s hard to find enough girls to have that kind of talent to qualify for division three,” Ms. Wise said. “Division three describes the type of stunts, flips and things the girls are willing to do. It takes a lot of hard work to get to this point.”

Stiff competition and national coverage through ESPN will make the event a challenge for the girls, but they are determined to prove Milford proud during their stay in Florida which could last up to a week.

The trick, however, is getting there in the first place. It will cost each family $675 per cheerleader to go on the trip – and funds need to be turned in by next week. Should all 22 girls be able to attend the trip, it could cost up to $14,850 of which the group has raised $2,800 to date with another $675 to be donated from First State Manufacturing in Milford.

“We are looking to raise the funds for our children to go. I’m a parent. I’m not actively involved with the board as of yet, although I plan on submitting my letter of intention for next year soon. We have thrown together so much stuff because we literally just found out about this opportunity a week ago,” Ms. Wise said. “Did we want to see our girls make it? We definitely did, but I don’t think anyone foresaw this. You don’t want to get all excited about this and then it won’t happen. And really, there are some parents that just don’t have the money for this. Some of the parents haven’t even disclosed to them that they’re going because they don’t know if they can afford it. The competition is Dec. 9, just two weeks before Christmas. It’s a hard time of the year on such short notice.”

The group, children and parents alike, have already worked together to raise funds through fundraising efforts like a bake sale at We Are Milford Day and through the help of Grottos Pizza and Arena’s in Milford. Green Turtle at Five Points in Lewes allowed some parents to guest bartend to raise a few extra dollars and girls have been seen around the community knocking on doors in hopes of sharing the good news for more funds.

At this point in the game, time is everything and the group is looking for certified funds through check or money order to ensure they can get the money the need to secure their trip in time. Pop Warner board members have even offered to pick up donations given the short time frame.

“To me, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Yes, they’re going to Disney. But, it’s not like we’re going to Disney to have a good time. There will be a down day where they will get to play, but they’re going to Disney to compete against the best of the best in all of America. It’s going to elevate their game, I think,” Ms. Wise said. “They’re going to see these girls that have been afforded different opportunities. Some of these Pop Warner teams practice all year round. Our building is great, but it’s not designed for that. They practice from August until their last game. The school is generous enough to let them use the gym a few times a week, but we still miss out on months of practice unlike some of these other teams.”

Sher Valenzuela, vice-president of First State Manufacturing, said she has noticed the hard work local children and families display every week from their offices near the ball parks and added that support from the community is crucial to helping them continue the tradition.

“When we moved our business to the building that sits on the Little League ballpark, it was because we knew we’d be connecting to the heartbeat of Milford, and to a sport and pastime that points our youth in such a positive direction. How amazing that year’s Pop Warner cheering squad has a chance to put Milford on the map as our nation’s national champions,” she said. “Unfortunately, most of these girls come from families that have to stretch just to cover the cost of the season’s enrollment, let alone the cost of traveling to compete. But Milford is such a caring community, a town that would reward the hard work of our youth for the chance of lifetime like this. We’re supporting their opportunity to win and believing other Milfordians will do the same.”

According to a letter sent to community members by Milford Pop Warner President Trudena Horsey, businesses like First State Manufacturing can sponsor the trip with benefits attached. For donations of under $500, the name or business name will be listed on the Milford Pop Warner Website and Facebook page. For donations of $500-$1,000, they will receive that and a digital logo on Milford Pop Warner signage. For larger donations, a person or business will receive all of those benefits and they could list their logo or name on participant t-shirts. The federal EIN number for Milford Pop Warner donations is 51—0274686.

Donations can be sent to Milford Pop Warner via mail at P.O. Box 154, Milford, Delaware, 19963. For more information or other donation methods, contact the organization through email at milfordpopwarner@gmail.com. Ms. Wise can be reached directly at kwise3086@gmail.com or by phone at 302-531-5560.

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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