Over the past few months, Garden City High School cheerleaders Grace Reagle and Taylor Newsome have sparked online friendships with fellow cheerleaders across the nation.
On Tuesday, when both of them perform with more than 800 other All-American high school cheerleaders in the London New Year’s Day Parade, they’ll finally meet them face to face.
In the months leading up the trip, both girls connected with those with whome they would soon cheer. Newsome found a girl who also does show choir on SnapChat, and followed the progression of cheer seasons at other schools online.
Reagle and a girl from San Diego met on Facebook and sent each other letters about what it was like in both of their hometowns. California, unlike Kansas, is always warm, Reagle said. Now, she has good friends in California, Nebraska and Louisiana, she said, and was excited to see them in person.
“I love the idea of meeting new people and what other people have to offer. We don’t know anybody else besides us from around here, so it’s going to be so cool to go and meet other people, and learn what their traditions are, and what they’re accustomed to and compare it to ours and learn from them,” Newsome said.
Newsome, Reagle and two other GCHS cheerleaders earned All-American status at cheer camp earlier this year, selected by the Universal Cheerleaders Association and National Cheerleaders Association, though only Newsome and Reagle chose to go on the trip. The honor is shared only by the top 12 percent of those who tried out at the camps.
Newsome has been cheering for seven years and Reagle for three. For both, the opportunity was very exciting. Their coach at GCHS, Brittany Howell, said it was a once in a lifetime experience.
“They get to see other athletes who have also made this commitment to go and they can just be part of a bigger team, because cheerleading as a whole is just one big team … They get to be a part of the big team for a week, and that’s pretty awesome,” Howell said.
Over the past several weeks, Newsome and Reagle have received components of the trip piece by piece, Reagle said — uniforms and plane tickets and videos of routines. The trip would be mostly sightseeing, Newsome said. They’ll see the botanical gardens, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace — all things they haven’t seen before.
To afford the trip, both girls fundraised on their own, selling $4,000 in sweets and tracking down sponsorships from local businesses. Howell said it made her proud to see the girls take something and “run with it.”
“It’s not everyday that people who rarely get to go out of the state of Kansas get to go to a completely different country and be in a parade with other cheerleaders from around the United States. It’s just a very proud moment,” Howell said.