BONNYVILLE – Cheerleading clubs in Bonnyville and Cold Lake are being recognized for their hard work.
The Alberta Cheerleading Association (ACA) named Bonnyville's Premier Academy Cheerleading and Tumbling owner and coach Melissa Kirkendall all-star novice coach of the year. In Cold Lake, the Cheer Force Jets were chosen for the school and community spirit award.
Kirkendall expressed her appreciation to the parents who nominated her.
“I’m very grateful and blessed to have such great families be part of our program,” she expressed. “We consider them family once they enter our gym doors and I think that it really shows the connections that we have with them. It wouldn’t be possible without those families being part of our programs.”
The coach of six teams, Kirkendall puts an emphasis on developing relationships with her athletes.
“As the owner of Premier, we really try to give back a lot and I think that played a role in giving back to our members this year. Some families that necessarily couldn’t afford to be in cheerleading that I personally helped out were then able to be a part of the program.”
This upcoming season will mark Premier's fourth in Bonnyville. After beginning their story with 29 athletes in the Duclos School gym three years ago, their second year saw over 80 youth signing up, while this past season grew to over 180 young cheerleaders hitting the mat.
“I could have never dreamed that the community would welcome us with such open arms. It’s been pretty amazing,” Kirkendall expressed.
Winning the provincial award reinforces to Kirkendall that her teams are competitive, regardless of where they call home.
“I think that we really stepped up and showed that just because we’re from a small town doesn’t mean that you can’t do the same things that all those gyms in the city can do,” she said. “One of my teams this year also won a bid to Canadian Finals, unfortunately, we didn’t get to go because of COVID-19 but I think that we really showed that our small gym is something to be reckoned with as well, in that we’re here to stand up and shine.”
The Cheer Force Jets are also making a name for themselves. Their win for the supporting school and community spirit award showed the club that their goal to get more people in Cold Lake involved was recognized.
“The community has been really helpful to us in starting out,” noted owner and head coach Viola McNeil. “We’ve only been around for three years and we’ve had lots of support from the community for our colour run and other events. So we wanted to have the opportunity to give back.”
Along with competitions and practices, the Cheer Force Jets participated in fundraisers for the Lakeland Humane Society (LHS), volunteered for the local Ronald McDonald charities run, and participated at events organized by the Lakeland Multicultural Association.
“I think it’s nice to show that we do more than just cheerleading,” McNeil explained. “We really encourage the kids to be more active in the community, to be leaders, and to volunteer and take part.”
This past year marked the Jets’ first with full-time programming after they opened their own gym, and some of the classes even had waiting lists.
McNeil said it's her athletes that deserve congratulations on being chosen for the award.
“They’ve worked really hard at practice this year, and then on top of their regular practices, they were willing to come out and help their community.”