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SVO, GV Cheer team up for Veterans

The Grand Valley State University Cheer Team and the Student Veterans Organization have joined forces to bring smiles – and cheers – to local veterans.

Both organizations met up with veterans at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans in late October, and members from both the all-girl and co-ed cheer teams performed a cheer routine for the veterans.

The home provides a place for veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to live, along with those from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Despite the home having a low ceiling and a hard floor surface, the team performed a normal routine that delighted the veterans, who could watch from their rooms or in person, as a camera streamed the show for viewing comfort. Steven Brown, president of SVO, approached the Cheer Team with the idea a few weeks beforehand in conjunction with an ongoing series of events coordinated by the SVO leading up to Veterans Day. Freshman cheerleader Torence Witherspoon was more than happy to comply.

“It’s really important as athletes that we go out and do stuff like this in our community,” Witherspoon said. “Before we’re athletes, we’re students and secondly, we’re role models. I think it’s important that we give back to our community because they’ve given so much to this university, as well as with the veterans, who have given so much for our country.”

Cheer coach Brandy Skantze said she issued her teams the challenge of completing 15 hours of community service, with positive results across the board.

“Mostly everyone has gone above and beyond the 15 hours,” Skantze said. “Once they get out there and do one event, they realize that it not only makes you feel good but it does give back to the community.”

Witherspoon said several members of the team have already gone back to the home on their own time, which has proved beneficial for both sides.

“You gather so much information from (the veterans),” Witherspoon said. “They’re so knowledgeable, it’s really awesome to get that history lesson from them. As a life experience, it was great to meet them and they were really happy we could come.”

Brown, a veteran himself, has already been at the head of several successful projects with the SVO this year, including raising over $2,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project in September.

The decision to recruit the Cheer team to go to the veteran home was an easy one.

“We were like, ‘How could we get Grand Valley more involved with veterans?’” Brown said. “The cheer team helped us out so much and we’re looking to span out to the dance team, the pom-pom team and other organizations here to reach veterans in the area.”

The SVO did a tailgate party and salute during the GVSU football game last Saturday and plan to attend the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans with the Cheer team again, either this semester or next.

Skantze was in favor of this proposal as well.

“I’d like to make it a regular thing,” Skantze said. “I think it was a great experience for everybody who went.”
dwolff@lanthorn.com



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