State champion Halls cheerleaders ‘love’ serving community

Halls’ cheerleading squad at the Fantasy of Trees: Front row -- Taylor Johnson, Alex Yanniello and Mary Addison Raley. Middle row -- Olivia Drafts, Jordan Mathes, Eleni Brinias, Delaney Langston, Alyssa Bales and Shelby Gresham. Back row -- Cassidy Gresham, Brianna Yanniello, Caroline Elliott and Harper Kirby.
Halls’ cheerleading squad at the Fantasy of Trees: Front row — Taylor Johnson, Alex Yanniello and Mary Addison Raley. Middle row — Olivia Drafts, Jordan Mathes, Eleni Brinias, Delaney Langston, Alyssa Bales and Shelby Gresham. Back row — Cassidy Gresham, Brianna Yanniello, Caroline Elliott and Harper Kirby.

By Steve Williams

A little kindness can produce big results, says Alex Yanniello, a Halls High School cheerleader.

It’s that belief that has driven Halls’ cheerleading squad to go out and help others during the holidays.

“I love participating in community service especially during the holiday season because with one small act of kindness I can change a person’s whole (holiday) season,” stated Yanniello via e-mail last week, “and I know that if I ever needed help, someone would be there to serve me too.”

The Halls squad, which captured a TSSAA state championship in November, volunteered its services at the Regal Kids Day Christmas party, the Angel Tree and the Fantasy of Trees.

“I love knowing that I helped someone out this Christmas,” e-mailed teammate Mary Addison Raley.

“For me,” added Taylor Johnson, “community service is being able to give back and have a positive impact on the community that I have always called home.”

At Regal’s annual Christmas party, the cheerleaders devote a couple of hours on a Saturday morning and paint faces for the kids. This year’s event was scheduled Dec. 12.

“We have been working with Angel Tree for over 15 years,” said Halls cheer coach Cheri Duncan via e-mail. “We wrap gifts for donations at West Town Mall on two Saturdays in December.”

Last year, the Halls cheerleaders helped Angel Tree by raising over $2,000. They were scheduled to work the past two Saturdays this year.

The Halls girls volunteered to work a shift painting faces and making handprint potholders at Fantasy of Trees, which benefits East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

“Halls cheerleaders take pride in our school and community,” said Duncan. “We not only cheer games and other spirit activities, but we also complete hundreds of hours in the community each year. We feel it is important to give back to the community as well as participate in our school events.”

Other projects and activities the Halls cheerleaders have been involved in during the year include the Halls Middle School cheerleading tryouts, the Halls Community Park Cheer Camp and HMS camp in the summer and Gameday Greetings at three feeder elementary schools and a close by daycare on Fridays during football season.

The girls also worked the Buddy Race for people with Down syndrome, helping with booths and cheering on walkers.

“We teamed up with the HMS cheerleaders and cheered on the participants in Knoxville’s Race for the Cure,” said Duncan. “This event is really important to us because we have two former cheer moms who are battling breast cancer, one current cheer mom who was recently diagnosed and two teachers who have fought and won the battle.”

Throughout the summer and fall, the cheerleaders also tutored at-risk students in hopes of them earning credits toward graduation.

“Teachers always request cheerleaders to help because of their work ethic and willingness to help others,” pointed out Duncan.

The reward for community service?

“There is no greater feeling than being able to serve someone and know that you’re making a difference,” answered Halls senior cheerleader Hannah Sobas, who was named to the All-State team at the TSSAA state competition.

“This is our third state title,” noted Coach Duncan, whose squad also won in 2012 and 2013. “We compete in the Non-Building Division which focuses more on tumbling rather than stunting.”

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