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Cheerleaders help food pantry before heading to national competition

Posted on Monday, December 4, 2017 at 1:08 pm

By Charlie Reed

For the News-Gazette

Cheerleaders, by design, aspire to bring joy to large numbers of people.

But for one local cheerleading squad their mission recently took them beyond the crowds of football fans and cheerleading competition spectators they’re used to seeing and to the St. Cloud Community Pantry.

The “Pee Wee” squad of girls from Harmony Youth Football & Cheer collected 103 pounds of food in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. The food will help feed families and individuals in need during the holiday season.

“The girls didn’t even know it existed before now, so they’re a little bit more aware about the needs in our community,” said Vanessa Bauknight, whose 10-year-old Allie, along with best friend Brenley Porter, 11, spearheaded the squad’s food drive.

The two delivered the bounty and even got to weigh the goods on the pantry’s old-fashioned scale.

“Giving is way better than receiving and they’re learning those lessons as they do things like this,” said Bauknight, who works for Osceola County’s Guardian Ad Litem program serving youth in the family court system. 
“We do a service project each year as a family so seeing the girls take up this project on their own was heartening,” she said. “I like to remember the saying ‘You have two hands — one to help yourself and one to help others’ and that’s what I try to live by and teach my kids.”

Good deeds often resonate with givers as much as receivers, and the Harmony Pee Wee cheerleading squad was no exception. The group of girls, age 9-12, were so energized by the food drive that they plan to volunteer at the pantry in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year.

They’re also excited about competing in the Pop Warner National Cheerleading Championship Dec. 7, which they just qualified for last weekend at Osceola Heritage Park. Three Pop Warner squads from St. Cloud also qualified for the national competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex .

Staffed entirely by volunteers, the St. Cloud Community Pantry opened in 1987. The food distributed there comes mostly through donations from local individuals and businesses. The organization receives some federal food donations through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Temporary Emergency Family Assistance Program. But it relies on the generous donations from Osceola County residents, businesses, churches, clubs and other groups to help those in need.