He's the Best. FIGHT ME.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Continuing with this story, first I need to clarify that the competition cheer that Alexis participates in is ... different. It's a non-profit organization and its goal is to make athletics affordable and accessible. The "franchise" started out in Michigan and is relatively new in Pennsylvania, but it's definitely growing. It's growing because it doesn't cost a zillion dollars. It has all of the challenges and many of the perks of expensive elite competitive cheer gyms, but we pay $50/month for the privilege of participating.

That's what it's all about, as far as I'm concerned. Privilege. Alexis has no idea how good she has it, so I try to give her small glimpses. I'm eternally grateful that she doesn't totally "get it," but giving her an opportunity to see that some high schoolers have to miss cheer practice because they have to go to work to pay for cheer practice is good. Besides, the kid is totally devoted to dance. She could not possibly do all of the dance things she wants to do AND cheer if it weren't for this program. It's only two hours per week and fits with her schedule while not costing all of the money.

So, we have a great coach, but we don't have jackets at the end of competitions. There are no "free" t-shirts, but the routines are difficult. The bow is cheap, the hair isn't as big (...because it's their real hair), they make do with whatever shoes they have, but they still look "put together." The girls who participate are far more diverse than what I've seen with other gyms, and that's not just about what you can see. The socio-economic backgrounds are varied. The levels of commitment are varied. These aren't girls who are spending their every waking moment fighting to be the best.

Because sometimes they're waging other battles.

Without getting into details of peoples' personal lives, let's leave it at one girl lost her mother to cancer this year. Another is part of an effort to start a new life in a new country. There's a girl who has survived the unthinkable. There are multiple girls who won't ever have the resources to go to college. None of it matters. The playing field is leveled when they're on the mat.

Together, they're focused on getting to Nationals and doing well while they're there.

But first they have to raise the money to pay for the trip.

So, back to that day spent standing outside Walmart begging strangers for money. It's always a good little project that results in good things. Mila yelling on behalf of her sister upped the game a good deal this year. But then we left and we totally missed the best part.

I wasn't there for it, but the story goes that a man started to walk past the girls who were on the later shift. They did their thing and asked for a donation and said man was all, "Sure!"

He dropped $900 in their little bucket. No questions asked. He just reached into his pocket and grabbed some kindness then passed it on to some girls who could use some kindness.

It was Juju Smith-Schuster. As in, THAT Juju.

Just imagine how generous he would have been if Mila had been the one holding the bucket.

Article originally appeared on burgh baby (http://www.theburghbaby.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.