A 20-girl competitive cheer team out of Orillia has won a bid to attend the Allstar World Cheerleading Championships, and now they’re seeking sponsors to help pave their way to Florida this spring.
The Valley Sharks team is based out of Cheer Sport Sharks Orillia. The team is made up of girls ages 11 to 16 who come from Orillia and Muskoka as well as places like Kawartha Lakes and Seabright. They’ve been training together since June 2022, and they quickly developed a sisterly bond, said coach Kira Bellisle. Attending the championships is a dream for many of the cheerleaders, and the support of sponsors will help the athletes and their families make it to the states this May. Sponsors will have their logo included on a banner used for team photos and featured on the team’s social media.
“This trip and competition can be very costly, and we are fundraising like crazy so these girls can experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bellisle said. “Alongside sponsorships, we will be accepting raffle items if anyone would prefer to support [by] donating items. Anything helps, there is no minimum, [and] we appreciate all the love and support from our community members.”
Bellisle said they found out they had an opportunity to apply for a bid to the championships at one of their regular competitions. They jumped at the chance to apply, which meant they had to outscore the other teams to qualify. They ended up with the highest score in the competition that day, she said, securing an impressive win as well as their bid to worlds.
They have lots of practice along with three Ontario competitions ahead of them before the championships. In Florida, they have two team practices, a team dinner and team bonding activities planned ahead of the competition to help them get accustomed to their surroundings, Bellisle said.
Bellisle has been cheerleading for 19 years and coaching for six. She has attended the Allstar Cheerleading Championships as an athlete for 10 years and won her first world championship in 2022 alongside her Star Spotted team. It’s been surreal for her to see the team she’s coaching succeed in this way while also forming such strong friendships.
“Watching my girls earn their bid to the Allstar World Cheerleading Championships was a pride and joy I’ve never felt before,” Bellisle said. “I am so immensely proud of the work my girls have already put in and am so excited to see where the rest of the season will bring us.”
Gravenhurst resident Jude Panthel is 13 years old and in her fifth year of cheerleading. She found cheer and the Valley Sharks through gymnastics and quickly fell in love. Most people she meets think of cheerleading as the sideline work at football games and other sporting events, so she loves to spread the word about what competitive cheer really is.
“Competition cheerleading is basically you work on a performance with stunting, tumbling, jumps and a dance, and you put it all into one performance,” Jude said. “Then you go to competitions where you perform it in front of a big audience, and they score you out of a hundred and fifty points, and sometimes you can get a bid to go to worlds.”
When she heard the news about the championships, she fell to the floor out of excitement. She can’t wait to perform at such a big competition as well as visit Universal during her first trip to the states. Competing is always a nerve-wracking but thrilling experience for Jude, and she’s looking forward to doing it alongside her teammates.
“I love all the connections you make with people,” Jude said. “It’s so fun making friends, and the coaches are really nice. That’s probably my favourite part.”
Jude’s mother Emily is so proud of her daughter and her teammates, especially given the intensity of their devotion to the sport. The team practices together twice a week, but many of the girls regularly put in extra time at the gym.
“I know for my daughter herself, she’s in the gym four times a week, if not more with private lessons,” Emily said. “All the girls are in there training a lot and helping their peers.”
The cheerleaders and their parents were together in the gym when the news hit, and just like Jude, the other girls were jumping up and down, hugging each other, and falling to the floor in their enthusiasm. Emily is excited to bring the whole family, including their eight-month-old baby, down to Florida for the competition and their collective first trip to the states.
She’s currently on maternity leave and knows the other families have their own financial needs, so she’s grateful for any support that sponsors can provide. It’s “unreal” that the team has this opportunity, she said, so she’s excited to spread the word and help show people what cheer really is.
“We were all super excited for them because I know they’ve worked so hard and just from the beginning of the year, like the first competition until now, they’ve improved so much,” she said. “I know that all of us parents are just so excited to see where they even get to by May because I know it’s going to be amazing when we see them on the floor there.”
For more information on how to support the team and their trip to the world championships, download the Valley Sharks Sponsorship Letter.