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Berlin cheerleaders to compete at nationals

(Dec. 3, 2015) The Berlin Pop Warner cheerleaders will compete at nationals in Disney World on Monday after coming in second place at the Eastern Regional competition Nov. 14 in New Jersey.
“The first two teams advanced to Pop Warner’s national championship in Disney,” Head Coach Jessie Parsons said. “It was amazing to see these little girls. Their faces were priceless.”
It is the first time in history a Berlin Seahawks Pop Warner squad has advanced this far. If they raise $10,000, it will cover a three-night stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort on Disney property for all 16 girls.
“That [$10,000] is our bare minimum and wouldn’t cover food or airfare,” Parsons said Tuesday. “It is looking like we will reach our minimum goal and be able to cover the package costs.”
Debbie Donahue, who is in charge of the cheerleading program in Berlin, created a GoFundMe web page to raise money for the trip to Florida and there has been $1,800 in donations pledged as of Tuesday night.
The 16 junior peewee cheerleaders range in age from 8-12 years old and most of the girls have been cheering together for a number of years.
“Being tight, our facial expressions and working together as a team” are the reasons the Berlin Seahawks have made it to nationals, according to Maddie Reed, 10, a four-year veteran on the cheer squad.
Three brothers and both of her parents will accompany Reed on her first trip to Disney. She is excited for the competition and to visit the Magic Kingdom.
“It is exciting because our goal at the beginning of the year was to get to nationals,” said Brooke Berquist, 9, who has been cheering for the Pop Warner Berlin Seahawks for three years.
Berquist visited Disney when she was 2 years old while her brother competed in a baseball tournament and she remembers eating breakfast with princesses. The Tower of Tower and the competition will be highlights of her trip, she said.
“We have cool stunts with facial expressions,” Berquist said. “We make duck faces and blow kisses.”
The girls began training for the competitions in August when they practiced four nights a week. Once school started, practices were scheduled three days a week.
In addition, the cheerleaders perform every Saturday for the Pop Warner football games.
“It’s a lot of dedication from the little girls and parents,” Parsons said. “It’s been a lot of fun to see them grow and some have never done this before. What a great group of girls.”
The cheerleaders will use their winning routine consisting of cheer, dance, tumbling and stunts with a couple tweaks for the national competition at Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports on Monday, Dec. 7 at 8:30 a.m.
They will be competing against seven additional regions and 16 potential Pop Warner teams in the junior pee wee medium level three division.
In addition, the girls will represent Berlin in Disney World as “The coolest little cheer squad from the coolest small town” in a parade with themed hats they create.
Pop Warner cheerleaders are required to maintain acceptable grade point averages to participate in the nonprofit organization’s programs.
At Disney World, the cheerleaders are required to have a study hall and the program has reached out to their schools, Parsons said.
“Many of our girls were national scholars for Pop Warner last year,” she said. “Five girls made first team for Pop Warner cheerleading and that’s amazing to be in the top 35 with 450,000 participants in the country.”
The cheerleaders who received recognition maintained a 96 average and participated in a number of volunteer activities including girl scouts and Relay for Life, she said.
“It was a neat group of well-rounded girls and an amazing year for them scholastically,” Parsons said. “We missed going to nationals last year by half a point and these girls are very determined [this year].”
More than 200 children in Berlin participate in Pop Warner programs including six football teams and three cheer squads.
Donahue has spent endless hours for the past 16 years dedicated to the program.
“She has done a fabulous job and is our rock,” Parsons said.  
All adult volunteers go through certification programs and participants rely on donations to attend national championships.
Tony Morris is president of the association in Berlin and coaches football, Parsons said. “We have a lot of good volunteers and keep 200 kids active.”
The cheerleaders collected donations during the Holiday Shopper’s Fair at the convention center on Thanksgiving weekend.
“They did very good and people were generous,” Parsons said. “They cheered for donations and came in shifts.”
Berlin Pop Warner is accepting monetary donations for its football and cheer program. Donations are tax deductible and can be mailed to: Worcester County Youth Football P.O. Box 205 Berlin, Md. 21811.  
“They are out of the house practicing football and cheerleading,” Parsons said. “We have to raise money for everything we do and rely on the kindness of the community.”
For information on the Worcester County Youth Football and Cheerleading Berlin Seahawks, call 443-783-8628 or visit  
To donate money to the cheerleaders GoFundMe page, visit