EAST HANOVER _ The Hanover Park High School cheerleaders bring magic to sporting events, dazzling fans and keeping the players' spirits up.
Who knew, though, that they had the ability to turn ribbons into a garden?
For much of the month of September in 2011, the cheerleaders held a fundraiser, selling red-white-and-blue ribbons to students and faculty members. The ribbons, worn on Fridays, were a remembrance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Funds from sales of the ribbons will be used to purchase flowers that will be planted around a plaque outside the commoms area that honors two Hanover Park graduates - Capt. Robert Dolan (1976) and Donald Delapenha (1981) - killed in the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
"When I mentioned doing a fundraiser for 9/11, the girls were interested right away," assistant cheer advisor Andrea Vecchione said. "They jumped at the opportunity. We want the girls to lead by example and be involved. This is a good way to start."
By the end of September, the cheerleaders had raised more than $300. They plan to do their planting in March assisted by student volunteers.
"I'm happy we're doing this to make people in our school aware," said sophomore tri-captain Taylor Behre. "Not many people our age know or worry about what happened then, especially if they have no connections."
The members of the cheer squad did their part to get their classmates to reflect on the tragic events of 9/11 as well. On Sept. 12, language arts teachers had students in their classes write a word or a phrase on colored strips of paper. Some of the words used were "hope," "believe," "honor" and "respect." The cheerleaders then linked them, forming a "Chain of Hope" and hung it across the windows in the commons.
"I like to do things like this," said another sophomore tri-captain, Amanda Cassady. "It's fun. Not only do we get to raise money for good causes, we get to spend time together outside of cheerleading."
Although Cassady was just starting elementary school when 9/11 occurred, she recalled the impact it had on a young friend in her neighborhood.
"My friend's dad was in the Army and he had to go to Iraq," Cassady said. "She was so upset."
The cheerleaders' willingness to be involved doesn't end there. On Sunday, Oct. 2, they did the T.J. Martell Foundation Walk. The foundation funds innovative medical research to find cures and treatments for leukemia, cancer and AIDS.
For several of the girls, the walk was a way to honor relatives who had survived or succumbed to cancer.
"By having more people participate, it will show they care and are concerned," Antonia DeMaio, a sophomore co-captain, said.
On Oct. 13, a Pink Game will be held during a night boys soccer match. The Pink Game seeks to raise awareness of breast cancer.
"We'd like to do at least one fundraiser per season," Vecchione said. "The girls are always enthusiastic. We want to have them know what being involved means."