140 year of Shriners

140 year of Shriners

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cheerleading more than just pep for Shrine game

Shrine Bowl activities are already underway and the big game is right around the corner, but the game is about more than football. KRTVs Shannon Newth sat down with Devon Hassa, a Shrine cheerleader who has plenty of spirit.

Hassa said, "Even from the time I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a cheerleader and cheering for the Havre High Blue Ponies."

And that dream came true for Devon Hassa, who is now a proud Shrine Bowl cheerleader - but Saturday's game means much more than her last hurrah as a high school cheerleader.

When Devon was six-years old, she was diagnosed with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder often characterized by multiple joint contractures and can include muscle weakness and fibrosis.

She's had two reconstructive surgeries on her face and three on her feet and ankles. Devon said, "It's been difficult...I can't do a lot of the jumps or a lot of the high kicks, but I can still get out there and cheer on my team."

Devon's family got connected with the Shriners in Havre, who have greatly assisted with medical and travel expenses for her visits to the Spokane and Chicago Shriners' hospitals. "They don't turn anybody away - if you have a problem they accept you with open, welcome, warm arms," explained Devon.

And those open arms give more than just than assistance with medical needs, Devon said. "They're like a second set of grandparents to me. I see them every Christmas and I see them all the time. Its like when you have a bond with someone that's helped you so much through your life, it's a bond that can't be broken."

And when she runs onto the field for Saturday's game, Devon will be cheering just as loud for the Shriners as the football players.

She explained, "I feel like its such a great opportunity to thank the Shriners for all they've done for me. I can't even put into to words how much they've done for me and it's just an honor to repay them by doing this awesome fundraiser for them."

Devon is one of 25 young women to make up this year's Shrine Bowl Cheer Squad.

The cheerleaders come from all across the state, from small towns to AA schools. To make the squad, they were required to submit an application and three reference letters.

And even though the football players have a week and a half to practice, the cheerleaders get just 12 hours together, and perform four to five times before the game, including a performance at Thursday evening's Alive @ Five last night. They also find time to teach a kid's camp.

Julie Shepherd, Shrine Bowl cheer coach, explained, "These girls are the best cheerleaders in the state and they love to cheer and work hard and that's why they're here...and they also know that they're here to help support the hospital, and that's our biggest reason why we do this, and for a lot of girls it's their last time they get to cheer, so its a really good experience for them to be able to do."
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