“You’re probably wondering why I called you all together,” Coach Marshall said, pacing in front of the group of cheerleaders gathered in the cafeteria. We were all sitting on the little attached seats or on top of the tables, backpacks and coats ready, anxious to get out of here and head home for the weekend. “We’ll be taking part in a service project over the next couple of weeks and I expect you all to participate.”
There was a collective groan throughout the group. Those were rarely fun and usually involved physical labor and broken nails.
“We’re not going to have to do another bikini car wash again, are we?” Danielle asked. We all turned to her with gaping mouths.
“In December?” I asked. “Are you dense?”
“Now, now,” —Coach gave me a stern look. Danielle didn’t mean to be a ditz; she just was. “The car wash—last summer—was a fundraiser. This is a service project. Besides, that car wash brought in enough money to supply new uniforms and poms for years to come.”
We all sort of shrugged and nodded. We’d held the event on Memorial Day weekend near the beach and capitalized on tourists from all over the State. We’d gotten huge tips from drooling college guys, along with their phone numbers.
That Saturday had provided dates and invitations to parties all summer long. It had also cost us two cheerleaders; one who failed her random drug screening two days before cheer camp and one who found out she was pregnant right before football season started. Money or no money, I doubt we’d be doing that particular fundraiser again anytime soon.
“This service project is a collaborative project between all players in each team at the high school.” That got everyone’s attention.
“That’s probably more than half the school,” Bella said.
“Yep, this is going to be a huge undertaking.” Coach nodded. “And it’s for a good cause.”
“What cause?” Alisha asked.
“We’re collecting donations of sporting equipment and raising funds for schools in Abidjan.”
“Is this because of Matt’s foreign exchange student from Africa?” Bella asked.
“Yes, Ariane is from the Ivory Coast on the continent of Africa.” Coach nodded.
“She’s so nice,” Alisha said.
“I heard she learned how to play basketball really quickly and will be playing first string,” Bella said.
“Apparently she was blown away by the amount of sporting equipment we have and would like to find a way to bring equipment home to the children in Abidjan,” Coach said. “We, and all schools in Michigan, probably most of the United States, have gently-used sporting equipment sitting around in closets not being used. We are going to gather as much as we can, box it up, and ship it to the schools over there. And we’re going to have a holiday ball to raise money for the shipping costs. We’ll probably try to get some business sponsors to help, and really get the community involved.”
All the girls started talking excitedly. This was going to be the most fun we’d had in a long time. My heart swelled with excitement.
“We’re going to be pairing up with other athletes from every sport in the school and gathering as many pieces of equipment as we can. You’ll be contacting other schools, driving to those schools and picking up donations, and all of it will count toward community service. It will look great on your college applications.”
“How are we going to be paired up?” I asked, a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“We’re having a big kick-off assembly on Friday so the athletic director can explain it to the whole school, and you’ll be drawing names from hats to find out who your partners will be.”
There were groans around the group and the knot in my stomach twisted. I didn’t want to get nervous—or my hopes up—that I’d be paired with Aiden.
“Anyone have any other questions?” Coach asked. We all shook our heads and shrugged but there was an air of excitement amongst us. “See ya Monday, ladies.”