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Starting from scratch

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By Shannon Brock

Kristi Riley’s 9-year-old daughter has a shelf in her room dedicated to her youth cheerleading accolades. The shelf is full of pom poms and trophies she has collected throughout her years as a cheerleader.

“Out of all the sports and activities she’s done, this is the one she’s stuck with,” Riley said.

Riley’s daughter hopes to add another trophy to that shelf this year, and Riley, the new coordinator of Anderson County Youth Cheerleading, hopes her daughter can, too.

But Riley and co-coordinator Dephanie Garrett have their doubts — doubts they hope they don’t see come into fruition.

Last year’s coordinator recently pleaded not guilty to charges that she took over $3,000 from the organization for things not associated with ACYC. And even though Lawrenceburg Police Det. Mike Schell affirms that the incident “was a one person thing, not the whole group,” the whole group has suffered, Riley and Garrett said.

ACYC is a cheerleading organization for girls in kindergarten through eighth grade. The squads cheer of Anderson County recreational teams, but receive no guidance or money from the county. It is run by a board of volunteers who are usually parents or guardians of the girls on the squads.

No old members, no old bank account

ACYC is starting up from scratch this year, Riley said. None of the previous board members is returning, she said.

So far, the board consists of Riley, Garrett, Heather Hardin as secretary and Garrett’s husband, Steve, as treasurer.

Garrett said she and her husband both would rather someone else serve as treasurer, but so far “no one wants to volunteer as treasurer.”

However, if someone wants to volunteer, Steve would gladly step aside, Garrett said.

Although this year’s board includes all new members, Riley and Garrett don’t consider themselves inexperienced.

Riley has coached each of the five years her daughter has cheered, and although Garrett has never officially coached, she’s worked as an assistant since her 11-year-old daughter started cheering six years ago.

Because the organization is starting over, they’re also starting with “zero dollars,” Garrett said.

In an effort to raise money, ACYC sponsored a raffle during the Burgoo Festival. However, the raffle wasn’t quite as successful as Riley had hoped.

“People would walk by and whisper, ‘Oh, they’re the ones who stole the money,’ ” Riley said.

Comments like that infuriated Garrett, she said.

“It was a one person thing,” Garrett said, adding that because of one person’s actions the reputation of the whole group has been tarnished.

However, the raffle did raise some money, and Verna Boggess of Lawrenceburg and Gina Bowman of Lexington were the respective winners of Kroger and Wal-Mart gift cards, Riley said.

Riley and Garrett said they even thought about changing the name of the organization to help boost its reputation.

“But everything we came up with had ‘Anderson,’ ‘youth’ and ‘cheerleading’ in it,” Garrett said.

Lots of people don’t understand what the organization needs money for since parents pay for uniforms, Garrett said.

“But we have to have money to put ads in the paper and buy trophies at the end of the year,” she said.

Even though the cheerleaders cheer for the Parks and Recreation basketball league, ACYC receives no state or local funding. All of its money is raised through donations and fundraisers, Riley said.

The cheerleaders cheer for the basketball teams through March, but the season doesn’t end there. Each squad learns and performs a three-minute routine for an end of the year presentation. The “presentation” creates extra costs, too, including the cost of trophies, Riley said.

Cheerleaders (and coaches) needed

Riley and Garrett are trying to stay positive about raising money and raising enrollment numbers.

Sign-ups are scheduled for Nov. 1, 8 and 15, all of which are Saturdays. Sign-ups will be from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on those days at Anderson County Middle School.

Girls in grades kindergarten through eighth are encouraged to sign up.

“We’re actually worried we won’t have anyone sign up,” Garrett said. “We’ve talked about, ‘What if we only get 20 girls? Will we keep it going with just 20 girls?’ “

As part of the effort to make this year’s sign-ups more appealing, Riley and Garrett are aiming to cut uniform costs in half. Last year, parents paid upwards of $80 for a uniform, they said. This year, Riley is aiming for the cost to be between $40 and $50.

“Even if it means we change the uniform to T-shirts and shorts,” Riley said, adding that $80 is a lot to pay, especially for families with more than one child involved.

Of even more concern to the two coordinators, is getting volunteers to coach and help out with the squads.

“We want moms who want to help,” Garrett said. “We want moms who want to be involved. We need volunteers.”

Garrett and Riley said they plan to make coaching as easy as possible for newcomers — or at least easier than it was for them when they first started.

“They handed you a list of the cheers, but you had to come up with the motions,” Riley said. “We will teach the coaches the cheers.”

However, if enough volunteers don’t step up, Riley and Garrett said they’re willing to go the extra mile rather than see the organization diminished.

“We’re willing to coach more than one squad if need be,” Riley said. “My life revolves around my kid.”

Garrett agreed, “If I have to coach more than one squad, I’ll do it.”

E-mail Shannon Mason Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.