SE: K-State Cheer Gives Back
Despite a busy schedule filled with K-State sporting events, practice and school, the K-State Cheer puts it all aside each month and sets its focus on giving.
The Wildcat Cheer squad spends time at its monthly team dinners putting together a plan to help the community before heading out to spread some additional cheer.
Each month is different – in September the team visited local nursing homes, in October the team donated stuffed animals to the Riley County Police Department for its Bears on Patrol program – but each month is meaningful.
“The team pulled together and got complete Thanksgiving dinners together for families in need,” said K-State Cheer head coach Dani Ruoff about her team’s November giving. “We don’t just bring canned items, we actually map out a whole Thanksgiving dinner right down to the turkey and the ham.”
The team brought the Thanksgiving dinner items to the Flint Hills Breadbasket, which then dispersed the food to families in need.
“From what I remember we had about 200 pounds of food,” said Kelsey Haag, a sophomore on the K-State cheer team. “Each person brought at least two items. We’ve gotten multiple thank you cards from the families, so I know we helped out quite a few people. It’s a great feeling; it’s what K-State stands for – we’re a family.”
This month, the team took a trip to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to volunteer at the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. It marked the second-consecutive year the Wildcat Cheer squad took the two-hour drive east to lay wreaths on fallen soldiers’ graves.
“My favorite was Wreaths Across America,” said Jena Gobel, a freshman on the cheer team. “It’s in my hometown, and my dad was in the military, so it holds a special place in my heart.”
Gobel said growing up in Leavenworth, she never knew about the Wreaths Across America ceremony. Now she hopes to attend it every year.
Every opportunity to give back is completely volunteer based, but Ruoff said she doesn’t have to worry about this year’s team getting involved.
“This year’s team is very, very excited to be here,” the coach said with a smile. “They’re so involved in everything. The volunteer activities have been a very big hit; they really want to do it. They want to cheer at the games and the games are very important, but we do a lot of things with the community too. It’s something they’ve all wanted to be a part of and that’s really nice to see.”
While Ruoff is proud of her team for stepping up throughout the year, the team is just as proud to call her coach.
“She is so committed to, not only this program, but also to everyone she meets, everyone she sees in need,” said sophomore cheerleader Alex Bolewski. “She’s always looking for a new way to help the community and to help others beside herself. She’s probably one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.”
Led by Ruoff, the K-State Cheer team is in good hands to continue its plan of giving in 2016. Already looking ahead to next year, Ruoff said the team is planning on collecting pet items to give to the humane society in January.
Along with its monthly volunteering and giving, K-State Cheer also writes letters to deployed soldiers throughout the year, hosts camps for Fort Riley families and is often seen at community events in Manhattan spreading their K-State pride.
“I just think it shows our personalities, not only are we here for the teams, but we’re here for everyone,” said Gobel. “We’re here to be the smile, the helping hand; that’s what cheerleading is all about.”