Cheering for a Cure

By Diana Price

What do you get when you bring 136 former National Football League (NFL) cheerleaders, a whole bunch of pink pom-poms, and a large dose of dance talent together to fight breast cancer—and then post the result on YouTube? Well, if you’re the official NFL Alumni Philadelphia Chapter Cheerleaders, you get $100,000 donated to the Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Here’s the story. Maggie Trush Hammond, who cheered for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1993 to 1999 and serves as membership chair of the NFL Alumni Philadelphia Chapter Cheerleaders, says that in September 2009, while planning a reunion of former Eagles cheerleaders, the group recognized that many of their members were breast cancer survivors. The realization naturally led to a desire to take on breast cancer–related charity work. “We decided at our first board meeting that we would walk in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in honor of our alumni who had bravely battled the disease,” Maggie says.

With the seed planted, the idea for a bigger project to raise funds soon followed. “I thought, What if we brought the five decades of alumni cheerleaders together to dance for the first time and we did it for charity? Having so many of our women affected by this disease, it seemed only natural to have it benefit Susan G. Komen,” Maggie says. Even better, Maggie thought, would be if they could create a video of the dance. And with that the idea for the “Team Ra-Ras Kick Breast Cancer” video was born.

Having established a team comprising representatives from the Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the NFL Alumni Philadelphia Chapter Cheerleaders, the group then got the backing of United Healthcare of Pennsylvania, which agreed to donate $100,000 when the video received 1 million views. Then the real work began, as former Eagles cheerleaders began learning the choreography via online instructional videos.

A year after the idea for the video project was hatched, on September 11, 2010, Eagles cheerleaders from all over the country arrived in Philadelphia to perform the dance, which was set to the tune of recording artist Jay Sean’s song, “Do You Remember.” Thirty days after the video was posted to YouTube, it hit 1 million views, and $100,000 was donated to the Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The opportunity to make such a sizeable donation was incredibly gratifying, but perhaps even more meaningful for the women involved was the community spirit of the event, which honored their unique connection and the love they have for fellow members who had been touched by breast cancer.

Kim Crits-Makuvek, an Eagles cheerleader from 1984 to 1987, was inspired to be involved in the effort to honor her mother, a 15-year survivor, and says the experience provided much more than she expected. “After learning that several of my fellow cheerleader alumni were also survivors, contributing to a project that would raise funds to fight the disease meant I could help make a difference. The opportunity to dance again with friends I hadn’t seen in years made the experience even more rewarding.”

Having met their goal, however, the NFL Alumni Philadelphia Chapter Cheerleaders were not ready to stop cheering for a cure. In January, upon the loss to breast cancer of Janis Moore Hill, a beloved member of their organization, the group committed to work toward making another major contribution. To that end they are now hoping to increase the number views of the video to 5 million, at which point United Healthcare of Pennsylvania has committed to donating an additional $50,000; and if they make 8 million hits, they’ll get another $50,000. “We vowed to Janis that we would get those 5 million clicks,” Maggie says. “We want to end this disease forever so that none of our mothers, daughters, sisters, or friends have to go through what Janis did.”

For more information and to view the “Team Ra-Ras Kick Breast Cancer” video, visit www.komenphiladelphia.org/video.