TRUMBULL, Conn. -- Disney World, here they come! The Trumbull Junior Varsity Pop Warner cheerleaders earlier this month won first place at the New England Pop Warner Regional Championships at the Massachusetts Mutual Center in Springfield.
The first- and second-place teams will go on to the nationals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Fla., near Orlando.
This is the first time that the Trumbull Rangers have made it to the nationals since 2005, said program coordinator Victoria Hwang.
And, she says, half of the team is new to the sport and one of its coaches, Lisa Nuland, is a newbie as well, Hwang said.
“It’s a really, really big deal,” she said.
With less than a month of turnaround time, the team has been working “fast and furiously” to raise funds to help defray their travel expenses, Hwang said.
Team members shook hands and asked for donations at the polls on Election Day, have designed T-shirts for sale (advertising businesses that donated), plan to host a fundraising pasta dinner, and are reaching out to other teams for ideas.
So far they have raked in about $3,500, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared with the $17,000 or so the sixth- and seventh-graders will be spending.
There are 17 girls on the team. Each one has to come up with $1,000, and that’s a lot for any family nowadays.
If they win the nationals, they will be coming home with medals and trophies.
“We also promised to buy them ‘bling’ jackets,” said Hwang.
Gracie Sassano, one of the cheerleaders’ coaches, said Monday that the team has “been working really hard.”
The idea of fundraising was intended, she added, to take as much of the financial burden off parents as possible.
The members of the team are Sami Bacarella, Carissa Burns, Dylan Cooney, Brianna Gomez, Sara Holmes, Jazmine Inoa, Deanna Jacobi, Jillian Kelly, Megan Molloy, Lily Nuland, Gabby Russo, Carla Sakakini, Katria Santos, Juliana Sassano, Julia Schmitz, Charli Smith and Brianna Spataro.
Besdies Sassano coaches are Lisa Nuland, Julie Smith and Patricia Kelly.
The team will be heading to Florida a few days before their first practice on Monday, Dec. 5; they will compete on Tuesday, Dec. 6, Hwang said.