It’s one thing juggling classes and athletics, but this year the Prior Lake cheer team has decided to add helping their community to their balancing act.

“Cheerleaders should be out there representing everyone and just being good out in the community,” junior Macy Sheffield said.

“Sometimes that just fades away as you go on because they’re so focused on competition and football game,” she added. “So now we’re more out in the community and showing people that we can do both.”

Sheffield and her fellow team captains, junior Riley Martin and senior Caitlin Mansfield, made it a team goal to do at least one service project a month for the entirety of their season, which starts in April and ends in February.

The team has completed four projects in three months.

In late September, for example, they filled a 53-foot truck with used wheelchairs and canes to be donated to Joni and Friends, a faith-based California charity that works with people with disabilities across the globe.

In August the team created over 60 care packages of treats, WiFi cards and hand-written notes to send to American service members through Support Our Troops.

“It was something really fun for us to do,” Mansfield said, noting one of the team coaches is in the Air Force. “So it’s special for us to also connect with her in that way.”

The group, like many athletic clubs and teams at the high school, has long participated in donation drives to charities like the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.

Coach Bridget Ortner said this year is different all because of the girls.

“Not only are they amazingly talented athletes, they also represent our school and our team and just have giving hearts, servant hearts and are good leaders,” Ortner said.

The work is entirely team-directed. The cheerleaders reach out to organizations they know or have researched and offer to lend a hand or send in a donation.

A letter from Joni and Friends Minnesota senior manager Jane Palmer thanked the team for giving up their Saturday to give back.

“We are grateful you gave your time and effort to help bring the gift of mobility and the love of Jesus to children and adults around the world,” Palmer wrote.

The captains said there’s been little need for convincing their teammates to join in on more volunteer work. The entire team views the service projects as team bonding and a welcome escape from the stresses of their teenage lives.

“It’s something we really look forward to doing every single month,” Mansfield said. “It doesn’t feel like a job or feel like work, it’s just something you really look forward to doing.”

Ortner said the varsity team is sending a message that will last.

“They this year have just really set the tone for what it means to be a Prior Lake cheerleader,” Ortner said. “I don’t see it going away.”

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