In order to raise money to travel south for competition, local cheer and stunt teams are willing to do any odd jobs around town, providing they are age-appropriate and safe.
Thirty-six members of two Alaska Elite cheer and stunt teams, seniors (ages 15-18) and juniors (ages 10-14), have their eyes set on the American Power Cheer competition on May 15 in Las Vegas.
"To be a competitive cheer and stunt team you have to compete, and Alaska doesn't offer this opportunity as in the Lower 48," said administrator and Junior Elite Coach Julie Wyatt. "Competitive cheer is a nationally recognized sport and is the top-third-growing sport at the high school and college level and number of scholarships offered is rapidly increasing."
So far the teams have made about $1,000 shoveling snow, pulling weeds, sweeping parking lots, washing cars and picking up litter. But the cost for two teams and two coaches will be $25,000, and while some parents have self-paid for travel, there are still about 12 kids who can't buy their $700 tickets. Also, competition fees are $1,980, and lodging is about $2,000.
The teams need $10,000 more for everyone to travel to the competition.
"It is amazing how hard they work in practice and then raising funds for the competition," Wyatt said. "With practice three and four times a week, being full-time students, they are willing to give up their free time and weekends to raise funds. The kids really want this and are willing to work for it."
The teams have already raised several thousand dollars for a professional choreographer and gym time.
"And they are still at it to cover all the competition expenses," Wyatt said. "That in itself is pretty amazing."
"As we Juneauites know, we just don't have the same athletic opportunities as kids in the Lower 48 do. It takes a group of parents to form a club or league and the support of the community to make opportunities happen for our kids."
For stunt team member Colby Nore, 16, who competed last year with Alaska Elite and this year as a sophomore on the Juneau-Douglas High School Cheer Team, competition is important because it forces the team to work hard.
"It makes you better as an individual and as a team," he said. "We are representing Juneau and the state of Alaska when we travel and compete down South. We want to do the best we can and show that Alaska can compete at a competitive level."
Nore is looking forward to watching other teams compete in Vegas and believes Juneau will do well.
"We have a good team with lots of talent," he said. "We work hard, and everyone gets along. Even if we don't place in the top, the experience of competing will make us better for next year."
According to Wyatt, Alaska Elite, which started in 2008, is the only advanced and competitive cheer opportunity in Juneau. Last spring, the club attended its first competition in Los Angeles with a senior co-ed team of 13 and took first in several categories, bringing home the grand championship trophy.
Vegas is particularly important to Joshua Hamilton, a four-year JDHS Stunt Team member and Alaska Elite Senior member, because it might be his last time ever to perform at a competition.
"I want to work as hard as I can and hopefully win first place so I can go out on top," he said. "And if we don't win, at least I will have some fun memories."
To Hamilton, Juneau has just as much dedication as any other team going to Vegas.
"It would be good if the community helped support us because we are trying to show Vegas how good Alaska is," he said. "What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas, but a trophy is coming home with us."
Those who have a job for the teams or are interested in helping in some way can contact Julie Wyatt at 957-0380.
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at firstname.lastname@example.org.