Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Realizing that COVID19 has impacted many in the community, the Franklin High School cheerleaders wanted to do something to give back. With October serving as Domestic Violence Prevention Awareness Month, the squad launched a campaign to collect desperately needed supplies for families staying in REACH’s residential shelter.
“In passing we became aware that REACH’s donations and supplies were being depleted due to the increase of service need uptick during the recent months,” said Lynn Baker, FHS cheerleading coach. “Upon hearing this, the coaching staff talked with the team and came up with the idea of hosting a donation drive.”
Macon County Board of Education Chairman Jim Breedlove said that seeing students take the initiative to be leaders in the community is something he is proud of.
“I continue to be both amazed and proud of the students of Macon County Schools,” said Breedlove. “This project by the cheerleader’s, it’s just another example of our students going above and beyond by volunteering their time to the benefit of our community and to help others in their time of need.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines across the United States receive approximately 21,000 calls. That’s 15 calls every minute.
In North Carolina, 44% of women and 19% of men experience intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence or stalking in their lifetimes. The residential shelter REACH in Macon County services women and children who are victims of domestic violence and is at full capacity for most of the year. Often times, those who come to the shelter have to leave everything behind and have to start from scratch.
Baker said that while discussing options with the team, they decided they wanted to do more than just a one-time donation collection in order to have the largest impact. The donation drive is asking for essentials for families staying in the shelter.
“We knew that REACH needed more than just a one time donation, so we brainstormed to start a ‘pass it along’ or ‘do good’ challenge so that we could get more people involved,” said Baker. “Basically our team worked for a couple of weeks gathering donations and upon completion, we challenged another group at the high school to do the same. Our hope is that they will keep it going and pass the challenge along to another team/group.”
Baker said that the service project for REACH is just one example of how the cheerleaders take an active role in the community.
Baker said that by launching the donation drive as a challenge to other student teams and groups at the high school, the squad hopes to have a bigger impact on those most in need.
“We hope that the challenges continue on and that REACH, and their clients are positively impacted,” said Baker. “We know that women and children leave their homes with literally nothing and come to REACH in order to escape life-threatening situations. If we can make a difference in this small way then imagine what other groups getting involved and continuing it on could do.”
Baker said the team has several ideas for future projects that are currently in the planning stages.
“We believe that our job as spirit leaders is not just high school related, but we also need to help raise spirit for the community. We aim to help others and promote good causes in any way reasonably possible,” said Baker. “We are very proud to represent our school, community and WNC. As coaches, we aim to help our team members learn how to give back to the community and become kind, advocating members of society. We have an amazing team of young athletes who have expressed the desire to be the change they wish to see in the world.”