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Griswold High graduate loving life as a Patriots cheerleader

2009-pats-action_brittany-bonchukBy Marc Allard
The Norwich Bulletin
Mar 27, 2010

She’s always been a big football fan and she figured there was no better way to get closer to the action.

Brittany Bonchuk, a 2001 Griswold High School graduate, decided three years ago to audition to be a New England Patriots cheerleader.

She’s been with them ever since.

Unfortunately, this will be the last season for Bonchuk to cheer on NFL sidelines.

The Griswold resident once again successfully auditioned for the team over the last month and a half and was named a team captain for a second year in a row last week.

“It’s a great feeling to know I still have it and can perform with the younger girls,” Bonchuk said about being chosen for the team for a third consecutive year.

Team rules are pretty clear, however, that cheerleaders stay on the team for a maximum of three years.

“Every organization has its own rules, but it allows more girls the opportunity to participate and keeps fresh faces on the sideline,” Bonchuk said. “I’m sad, it’s a little bittersweet, but this has been a great opportunity and it’s been so worth it.”

Bonchuk has been performing ever since she left Griswold High where she participated in cheerleading and softball. She participated in several off-Broadway productions, performed with musical artists such as Neil Young and Rascal Flatts and was a member of the dance teams for the Hartford Wolf Pack and Connecticut Sun.

The idea to try out for the Patriots cheerleaders was in the back of her mind, but there was one mitigating factor.

“The commute was intimidating, but I felt it was worth a shot,” Bonchuk said. “It was a great opportunity to watch a game live.”

Bonchuk was named a team captain last year, the only second-year cheerleader chosen as a captain. That makes her the lead in that regard for this upcoming season.

“I was pretty honored by it last year. Now I have a year under my belt and I get to show the others the ropes,” Bonchuk said.

Being a Patriot cheerleader is a year-round job, according to the Griswold grad. The 25 members of the team will travel to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in about a month for the 2011 Patriots cheerleader calendar photo shoot.

It’s also a chance for the new members of the team — which comprise about half of the membership this year — to bond with the veterans.

“I think the part I enjoy most is the performance aspect, to entertain that many people, to meet new people,” Bonchuk said.

Bonchuk and the rest of the squad traveled to Afghanistan last summer to perform for the troops — and not just the troops in the more populated and safer areas of the embattled country.

“They took us out in Black Hawk helicopters to remote areas in the mountains where there were only at times some 100 troops,” Bonchuk said.

And the enemy wasn’t all that far away as the cheerleaders heard some relatively close fire.

“It was a little dangerous, but we were able to see firsthand what kind of situations our troops were experiencing,” Bonchuk said. “It brings you back to reality, but I wouldn’t have changed it. It was worth everything we encountered.”

Bonchuck is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University and is a Connecticut licensed clinical social worker when she isn’t cheering on the Patriots.

“Most of my co-workers don’t even know that I’m a Patriots cheerleader,” she adds. “It’s my outlet, it keeps me in shape and I certainly don’t mind traveling.”

Bonchuck is also the dance team coach at CCSU where she will return after her last hurrah as a Patriot cheerleader to complete her doctorate degree.

“I don’t sleep much, I drive a lot and I work a lot,” Bonchuk said.

And she’s loving every minute of it.

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