Local Cheerleaders to Perform in Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade

In late June, the Altamont Junior High cheer team attended a Universal Cheer Association camp together in order to hone their skills as performers. At the camp, students from Altamont, Effingham, St. Anthony, Dieterich, Louisville, and New Athens schools auditioned for roles in UCA’s All-American squad, which will perform in Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, slated for the morning of Nov. 22.

To their shock and joy, Cecelia Devore and Ramsey Miller, two members of the Altamont Junior High cheer squad, were accepted to the All-American squad.

Both girls agreed that the honor was a surprise: “We [the team] all tried out for fun,” said Miller after a Monday night practice in the Altamont Grade School gymnasium.

Around 11 cheerleaders were named to the All-American squad at the June camp. These performers will join a group comprised of cheerleaders from 24 states and the District of Colombia.

According to a press release from Varsity Spirit, which oversees UCA events, “All-Americans will perform alongside massive floats and giant balloons, as well as favorites from the entertainment world as the 2018 Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade makes its way through the heart of historic Philadelphia. The event is televised in the Philadelphia area and syndicated throughout the United States.”

Devore and Miller are both excited about the trip. Neither have been to the Philadelphia area before, and they feel proud of their accomplishment. And they should be: in 2013, half a million people were expected to tune in for the parade’s televised appearance, according to a Time business article. Few junior high cheerleaders, especially cheerleaders from a small Illinois town, can claim that kind of an audience.

The hard part, though, will be raising money.

Since the trip to Philadelphia is outside of the junior high’s regular cheer schedule and does not involve the full team, Altamont Grade School cannot support the All-American nominees financially. This leaves fundraising up to Devore, Miller, and their coach, Laura Smith, who plans to travel as a chaperone.

“We’ve tossed around several fundraiser ideas… [but] we don’t have that much time to raise money, and we don’t want the burden to fall on [the Devore and Miller] families,” said Smith. Among the ideas were car washes and bake sales, though at present the All-Americans are relying on sponsorships from locals and local businesses. The three also accepted donations at the Mill Road Thresherman’s Association show.

Smith said that the All-Americans also plan to sell sponsor t-shirts, which will include the names of sponsors on the reverse. Shirts are not ready yet, but interested parties can check with the grade school office throughout September.

According to the event’s itinerary and pricing information, participants can expect to pay up to $800 for a three-day experience, which includes rooms in a waterfront hotel, a walking tour of historic Philadelphia, a dinner cruise on the Delaware river, several meals, two parade rehearsals overseen by UCA coaches, and all the equipment necessary to perform in the 99th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. The price does not include transportation to and from Philadelphia or spending money.

Anyone who would like to help sponsor Devore and Miller may contact Coach Smith at (618) 214-9809, or by emailing lsmith@altamontschools.org. The All-Americans plan to accept donations at least until early October in order to meet payment deadlines set by UCA.

Additionally, the parade will be televised on ABC in Philadelphia, and may also be shown on ABC stations across the country. WPVI Philadelphia often livestreams the parade on 6abc.com, Youtube, and Facebook. Check back on Thanksgiving morning to see Devore and Miller in action; the parade starts at 7:30 a.m. Central and will end around 11 a.m.

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