Vanderbilt Athletics

Barca Blog - Spreading Cheer

Nov. 26, 2008

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You see them on the sideline cheering for the Commodores every Saturday.

What you may not see though is a group of student-athletes reaching beyond the football field.

During the Commodores trip to Kentucky two weeks ago, Vanderbilt Cheer Coach Pam Pearson and the cheer squad made a special visit to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Lexington.

Shriners provides specialty pediatric care at no charge to children with severe ailments ranging from orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate.

"A lot of the children could be bitter or angry over their disabilities, but all of them were really happy and appreciated us," said junior cheerleader Dariun Maxwell. "Even though they were in a bad situation or bed-bound, they were all smiling and having fun and enjoying life. So, it really makes me appreciate my life."

The cheerleaders are involved in one cause-related event per month, but this was the first time the team did a service activity on a football road trip.

"I called Shriners Hospital," Pearson said, "and asked if they'd be interested in having our cheerleaders spend some time with the children who were there. They were ecstatic to have us come."

One of 22 Shriners locations in the United States, the Lexington facility treats children from areas across the southeast.

"We didn't know what to expect," said Maxwell, "but once we got there and saw the children, we all appreciated it. By the time we left, no one wanted to leave."

For two hours that night, the cheerleaders engaged the children with games, stories, autographs and even a Commodore spirit routine. The kids were able to focus less on their injuries and more on their smiles.

On a historic weekend for Vanderbilt athletics, the cheerleaders walked away with a life-long memory off the gridiron.

"We realized very quickly how fortunate we really are," Pearson remarked, "and how unfortunate some young children are. So for us to go there and brighten their day just for two hours was a special experience."

If you're interested in having the Vanderbilt Cheerleaders come to your cause-related event, visit their website at

We'll close with a video of the day. Thanks to Caliente for sending it in. This will definitely help you get your groove on for Turkey Day.

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