Colts cheerleader meets, forgives teen who used racial slur

by Amy Bartner, amy.bartner@indystar.com

One week after a Russiaville high school student used a racial slur to describe an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader in a photo he posted to Snapchat, the two met in person.

The cheerleader, Leanna E., tweeted a photo Wednesday night showing her next to the 17-year-old Western High School senior during the meeting at the Colts complex. The text of the tweet: “A week ago I was the victim of a racial slur that was shared around the world. Today, I chose forgiveness & feel stronger because of it.”

“To receive the apology and be able to formally and officially forgive him and talk and be able to relate on things and find common ground, it was really comforting and helpful for us,” Leanna said Thursday in an interview with IndyStar. “I’m at peace with it.”

The student took a photo Dec. 14 of him and another student posing with Leanna and another Colts cheerleader at the Howard County high school during an event to celebrate the school’s participation in the Colts Leadership Challenge blood donation program with the Indiana Blood Center. The teen sent the Snapchat with the caption, “Of course (other student’s name) put me next to the (racial slur).” A screen grab of the photo was posted to Facebook and quickly went viral, shared more than 1,000 times.

The story drew international attention, and the student posted an apology on his Instagram account, which has since been deleted. But he had not directly apologized to Leanna.

In a conversation Tuesday with Western High School Principal Rick Davis, Leanna asked how the student was doing.

“I just was concerned for how he was handling it, and (Davis) said he wasn’t handling it well,” she said. “That broke my heart to know that.”

So Davis connected the two for the chance to meet face to face.

The student and his mother met Leanna and her coach in a conference room in the complex on the northwest side, and though Leanna extended a hand to shake, the teen greeted her with a hug and flowers.

“I extended my hand to shake, and he was like, ‘Come on, bring it in, bring it in.’ It was a good ice breaker,” she said. “He was pretty uncomfortable, which is understandable, but he got right to his apology. He said that he was a kid who made a mistake. He actually referred to himself as a dumb kid that messed up, and he said he was trying to be funny and wasn’t and that he made a mistake and he was sorry, very sorry for hurting me and others.”

His mother was extremely gracious, too, Leanna said.

“She was emotional and expressed her gratitude and her appreciation for me being so forgiving and me being willing to meet with them, and she immediately embraced me,” she said. “She said he wasn’t raised that way, that it was peer influence. He grew up in a Christian home, and he was taught better.”

The student has received physical threats and a very public response from thousands of people commenting online, and Leanna isn’t sure his offense is worth the vitriol he has received.

“I hope that people look at themselves and step back and realize everybody makes mistakes; nobody’s perfect,” she said. “I feel like there is so much good in Indiana, and the heart of the state is pure and good. That’s what I feel like draws people in. I would hate to think that somebody would read that story of this one student who’s made one mistake and categorize everybody in the state as being the same way, and if so, that’s just stupid.”

Leanna said she did not believe the student was racist. She was told the student and his friends have used the racial slur as sort of a term of endearment, Leanna said. Although she doesn’t understand it, she said she attributes some of that behavior to what she called the “Trump effect,” the surge of visibly racist behavior and imagery in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the presidential election.

“It has become acceptable, for some reason, to be racist or make racist comments, and I don’t really know why that is,” she said. “The leaders of the nation are making these mistakes, and it’s seeming OK. It’s not that surprising that these kids would make the same mistakes. That generation, that age group, they need a lot of help, a lot of guidance. They’ve grown up with phones and technology at their fingertips, and I don’t think they have the mental and physiological capacity to fully understand the precautions they should take with the internet and with the future.”

Leanna is looking forward to moving forward, and although she didn’t expect her cheerleading career to head in this direction, she is thankful she was put in this position. Davis and the Colts organization is planning to create an educational program from this experience, she said, and she will be heavily involved.

“If it has to be somebody, I’m glad that it could be me,” she said. “We’re trying to make something positive out of this. I’m able to show more people that there’s a different way than just hate.”

Richmond RoughRiders Dance Team Prep Class and Auditions

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Richmond, Virginia has always been a bit small for a major league team, but the Richmond Raiders were blessed with a top tier major league quality dance team, coached by former Washington Wizards Dancer (2000-2003, Captain) and Washington Redskins Cheerleader (2005-2012, Captain) Kelly Allen. Well, in the topsy turvy wacky world of indoor football this spring, the Raiders are no more, but Richmond has a new indoor football team in town, and Kelly is now the Director of the RoughRiders Dance Team. Great news! Information about the prep classes (December 15th) and auditions (January 7th) are included in the graphic above, and we were thrilled to feature Kelly, singing her praises, at this link, previously at UltimateCheerleaders.

James Corden carpools over to join a Rams Cheerleaders routine

Perhaps channeling his inner Robin Williams, Late Late Show Host James Corden, along and the guys from A League Of Their Own, joined the Rams Cheerleaders performance during the Seahawks game. Let’s go to the video, and another at this link.

We’ll have to wait and see if other celebs embrace the chance to join the Rams Cheerleaders this season.

And donning the uniform harkens back to the 1970’s, when an episode of Mork and Mindy featured Robin Williams joining the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders. Sorry kids, it was a hairier time. People accused celebrity males (Andy Gibb) of augmenting themselves with chest toupees. Yep, you had to be there.

Colts cheerleader hangs up pom-poms for good reason

Story link and video link.

by Dana Hunsinger Benbow, dana.benbow@indystar.com

Lauren Madden’s parents got cancer at the same time. Now cheering doesn’t seem quite as important as her new job.

The nurses were like angels.

Lauren Madden noticed that about them. Their goodness and their gentle, kind spirits.

She noticed the angels because they really didn’t belong where she was — going through hell.

It was five years ago, when Madden was working in a mortgage department, a cheerleader for the Indianapolis Colts — and her father was diagnosed with aggressive duodenal cancer. Six months later, her mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

These two medical professionals from Greenwood — her dad, Tom Madden, an ER doctor; her mom, Terri, a surgical tech — found themselves in hospital beds, needing someone to take care of them.

And as Lauren Madden sat there, she saw the nurses care for the two people who meant the most to her in the world.

“I was just like, ‘Lauren what are you doing with your life? This is what you need to be doing,’ ” said Madden, who had graduated from Ball State University with a telecommunications major in 2010. “‘This is what you were called to do.'”

She immediately applied to nursing school.

Terri Madden, now cancer free, got to see her daughter graduate as a registered nurse in 2014. Tom Madden didn’t. He didn’t get to see her following in his footsteps, in an ER department. He died four years ago on Aug. 8.

“I go into work every day and think about him,” said Madden, 29, a registered nurse at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. “Sometimes I’ll be at work and I’ll think, ‘Oh I wish I could tell my dad that, this funny story, or what would my dad do in this situation?’ ”

As Madden tries to carry on the legacy of her dad, she’s made her own sacrifice.

After five seasons as a Colts cheerleader, she put away her boots. Working 12-hour shifts, caring for sick children is her focus now.

But she does have the Colts to thank for living out this very important dream — being one of those angels like the ones who cared for her dad.

A FATEFUL VISIT

It was the Colts’ annual visit to Riley, when players, big-name players such as Andrew Luck, visit the patients, hand out presents and sing Christmas carols.

Madden — a musical theater performer who at age 9 played Brigitta von Trapp in the Broadway production of “The Sound of Music,” touring 49 states and Asia — was thrilled.

“Doing the appearance at Riley, singing Christmas carols was always my absolute 100 percent favorite appearance,” Madden said Thursday morning before her shift started. “It was all my favorite things wrapped into one day. It was the Colts, nursing, being a cheerleader, kids, Riley, singing.”

But this year, Madden was even more excited. She had decided that with her nursing degree in hand — and already working in ER at St. Francis hospital — she would go for her dream job.

As she and her cheer teammates got ready in the restroom, she told them her plan: “I have to work here. I don’t care how, but I’m going to get a job today.”

After singing songs from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and seeing the children smile, Madden still hadn’t gotten up the nerve to mention to any of the hospital staff what she wanted.

“We’re getting ready to walk out the door. I’m like, ‘This is your chance, come on Lauren, come on, you can do this,’ ” she recalled. “And we’re walking out and I was like, ‘Oh, by the way, if you guys are hiring, let me know.’ ”

Lucky for her, a man named Paul Haut heard her loud and clear.

SPECIAL SOUL

Dr. Haut, the chief medical officer at Riley, was there to see the caroling Colts. When he heard Madden was a nurse, wanted to work at Riley and was already in the ER, he pounced.

“We need emergency department nurses,” he said. “So, we’re always looking for people who want to work for Riley, who have a need to care for some of the sickest kids in the state. It takes a special soul.”

Madden seemed to have what it took. Haut could tell that right away, so he did something a little unusual.

On the spot, Haut called the manager of the ER and told her he thought he had someone to hire. The manager came down and conducted an impromptu interview with Madden, still wearing her caroling hat and uniform. A few weeks later, Madden got an official interview.

Haut didn’t hear how it all turned out until March, when Madden started at Riley. Haut was wandering around the ER and saw that Colts cheerleader.

“She said, ‘Do you remember me?’ ” Haut said. “Oh my gosh. She got the job.”

They’re at the secret treasure chest — Madden and Nevaeh DeVault, 5. Nevaeh is in the ER, nervous, and Madden is helping her pick out a treat.

Nevaeh finally settles on a pink monkey that she decides to name “Monkey.” Madden smiles.

“I love it,” she tells her patient, as if it’s the most original name there is.

Madden loves the kids. She loves singing the ABCs and classic Disney songs and popular favorites like “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” She’s helped many a kid get through a scary time singing by their bed.

“That’s my favorite part about working at Riley. I know medicine’s important in getting these kids better, but I think making that connection with them (makes a difference),” she said. “Getting them a toy from the secret treasure chest and giving them a high five or a hug.”

That’s what brings the patients and their families comfort. That’s what Madden’s mission is.

Yes, she’ll miss being an NFL cheerleader. Madden knows she will be wishing she were on the field this football season. She still follows the Colts cheerleader Facebook page. But it was her choice to not try out for the 2016 season.

The decision wasn’t all that hard. She often thinks back to her days growing up in Greenwood, sitting around the dinner table with her dad telling stories of the ER. She remembers his cool demeanor that calmed the chaos of the department at Bloomington Hospital of IU Health.

Tom Madden may not have gotten to see his daughter graduate, but as he lay in the hospital tended to by nurses, he knew his daughter would soon be one of them.

“I think he would be proud that I’m at Riley and working with kids every day,” she said. “I still feel like he’s guiding me.”

Sign up now for the 2016 Junior TopCats Fall Clinics

topcats fall clincs 2016

Richelle Williams, the Cheerleader Manager/Choreographer for the Carolina Panthers, lets us know that registration for Junior TopCats Fall Clinics is fast approaching!

Girls from across the Carolinas team up with one of the NFL’s premier dance and cheer squads, the Carolina Panthers TopCats. Junior TopCats participate in three clinics and learn a routine to perform with the TopCats at a Carolina Panthers game.

The Junior TopCats will help kick off the Panthers’ 2016 season with a special pregame performance at Carolina’s home opener versus the San Francisco 49ers on September 18.

Register now! Click here to register

Highlights:

-Experience the thrill and excitement of performing a pregame show in front of more than 73,000 fans during a Carolina Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium.
-Develop basic dance and cheerleading skills taught by the TopCats.
-Receive an official Junior TopCats costume, t-shirt, pom poms and LOTS of other Junior TopCats items.
-Build self-esteem and character.
-Make new friends.
-Show your Carolina Panthers and Junior TopCats pride and HAVE FUN!

Program Dates (rain or shine)
Friday August 5, 2016 Registration deadline with ticket orders
Friday August 19, 2016 Registration deadline without ticket orders
Saturday September 10, 2016 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Clinic #1
Sunday September 11, 2016 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Clinic #2
Saturday September 17, 2016 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Clinic #3
Sunday September 18, 2016 11 a.m.-Kickoff Pregame Performance

Click here for more information!

Do you have Stars quality? Prep classes and auditions for the Dallas Stars’ Ice Girls in July

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These days, there is only a millisecond of off-season for the cheer directors of the NHL and NBA teams that are still in the playoffs. For instance, tonight, the Dallas Stars play in game six of their series against the Blues. But even with the Stars still playing, Christina Swanson, Ice Girls Director, is also in the midst of planning prep classes and auditions for next season’s skaters and dancers. Christina let’s us know the schedule for July, and kindly sends along some excellent photos take by Jerome Miron.

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Prep Classes will start on July 6th at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in McKinney (6993 Stars Ave, McKinney, Texas 75070). There will be four total classes before auditions and all of these classes will fall on either a Monday or a Wednesday (dates are below). Registration will begin 20 minutes before each class. Cost per individual prep class is $35. Ladies may also pay in advance which reserves their spot in the class. Walk-ups are welcome until the class is full. All prep classes are non-refundable.

What to expect:
1 ½ hours of dance instruction (includes stylized combination similar to audition routine)
1 hour of ice skating (includes drills, tool work, proper on-ice technique)
Different dance routines and skating drills will be taught each class.

Attire:
Top: Half Top
Bottoms: Pants (dance or yoga) and shorts (with tights)
Dance Shoes: dances sneakers or jazz shoes
Hockey Skates: if you own them if you do not have hockey skates we will provide them for you.
Be sure to bring a jacket, tall socks, and water

Prep Class Dates:
Wednesday, July 6th 7:30-10PM
Monday, July 11th 7:30-10PM
Wednesday July 13th 7:30-10PM
Monday, July 20th 6:30-9:45PM

Click here for the Prep Class Application and the Prep Class Waiver.

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Auditions:
Preliminary and semifinal auditions will be held on Sunday, July 24th at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, TX (2601 Avenue of the Stars) from 9:30AM – 8PM. Interested applicants should complete the application and waiver and return them to the Dallas Stars office in person or via mail. They must include their application fee ($35 cash or check) and a recent photograph. Professional head-shot style photos are preferred, but not necessary. These photographs will be used for identification purposes and will not be returned. Applications must be received by 5:30PM on Friday, July 22nd, 2016. Auditions are closed to the public. Ladies that tryout can be a skater OR a dancer but do not have to do both.

Preliminary round:
Upon arrival ladies will check in and receive and audition number and will be divided into three groups: Skaters, Dancers, and Both. During the preliminary round of auditions the ladies that are registered as skaters will show the judges a freestyle skate and basic drills. The ladies that are registered as dancers will show a freestyle dance with a short tag that is compiled of a few eight counts. After all the ladies have gone thru the first round the judges will deliberate and come back with the ladies who will progress to the semifinals.

Semifinal round:
This round the selected rookie candidates will be joined by the veteran candidates. During this round the ladies who are registered as skaters will show executive skating drills, freestyle lap, along with doing a mock run thru of how we clean the ice at Dallas Stars Home Games. The ladies that are registered as dancers will learn a dance combination and perform in small groups. After all the ladies have completed the semifinal round the judges will deliberate and come back with the ladies who will be advancing to finals.

Finals:
Finals will be held at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in McKinney, TX July 25-29, 6:30-10:30PM, August 1-5, 6:30-10:30PM and August 6th 9am-2pm. Final squad will be announced Saturday, August 6th, 2016.

Attire for Auditions:
Top: Half Top
Skating Bottoms: Pants (dance or Yoga)
Dancing Bottoms: Shorts (with tights)
Dance Shoes: Sneakers or Jazz Shoes
Hockey Skates if you own them, if not we will provide a pair for you
Be sure to bring a jacket, tall socks, water and snacks.

Requirements:
– Must be 18 years of age on or before July 24, 2016
– Must have previous skating OR dance experience
– Have a High School diploma or GED
– If selected, must reside in the Dallas/Fort Worth area
– Have reliable means of transportation to practices, game, and appearances
– Hold a job or be enrolled in college
– Must commit to the Dallas Stars Ice Girls Schedule, which includes but is not limited to attendance at all practice and home games, for one full year (August 2016 – July 2017)

For more information regarding prep classes or auditions, please visit DallasStars.com/IceGirls

Click here for an Audition Application and Audition Waiver

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Chicago Blitz audition countdown!

Are you ready for the field? Have you registered for Auditions?
February 25 8:30-11:00pm
Dovetail Studios
Auditions are $15 if you pre-register and $20 at the door
To register email: chicagoblitzdancers@gmail.com

ChicagoBlitzAuditions2016

Bri and Kellee exemplify the winning Titans Cheerleaders team attitude

Titans Cheerleader Bri
Titans Cheerleader Bri

What makes a winning team? When a team member speaks glowingly about their squad in terms that there is no competition within it, and a strong camaraderie of friendship, saying of each of their members, “You want to see everyone succeed, and get opportunities, not just necessarily yourself or your friends, you want to see everyone do well.”

That description of the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders came from second-year member Bri as she joyfully described her team last October. And this winning attitude may be also derived from Titans Cheerleaders being part of winning college programs in the past. Bri was danced at University of Alabama, as did another Titans Cheerleader Julia, and Hannah and Pro Bowler Heather also attended Bama, the team consistently at the top of the college football world over the last decade. Her hometown is in Texas, but Bri is an Alabama fanatic with all her heart.

Titans Cheerleader Kellee
Titans Cheerleader Kellee

Rookie Kellee also brought a winning history to the Titans Cheerleaders, as she danced for the Oklahoma State football teams that achieved great success with QB Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon. “I was there those years so that was really fun,” Kellee recounted. “My last year we went to the Fiesta Bowl. It was the year we almost went to the national championship; I would have loved to have cheered at the national championship.”

“That was the year we kicked you out of the national championship,” Bri, playfully chimed in, remembering 2011-2012 one-loss Bama was BCS #2 and the 11-1 Cowboys were #3. With deadpan comic perfection, Kellee replied, “I don’t want to talk to you.”

But Bri and Kellee were not only TTC teammates, but both proudly on captain Jessi’s line. “We’re the best line and everyone knows it,” they joked. “We only have six members, so we’re the short line and the small line, but I like our small line.”

Jocelyn, Kellee, Jessi, Bri, and Hannah
Jocelyn, Kellee, Jessi, Bri, and Hannah

At the Halloween home game, Bri was happy with her costume, but a bit perplexed. “I’m a Greek goddess, but I think the people that made the costume are a little confused about their history and culture though, because it came with a snake headband. That’s Egyptian, not Greek. So it’s like a combo of the two I guess. My mom said, ‘I don’t think that’s right,’ and I said, It’s not.”

Kellee’s costume channeled Where’s Waldo? “I really like it. It is comfy, a cotton shirt and cotton shorts. Kellee joked, “I thought, why I don’t just go hide during the game?”

In the tradition of the Titans Cheerleaders representing the US from coast to coast, Kellee moved from Oklahoma, originally from the Tulsa area, to Nashville. “I love Nashville, it’s a really easy transition from Oklahoma. People are really nice, and it’s not too big.” Kellee was working for an insurance agency in Nashville, with a dream job to own her own event planning company.

Bri works as a human resources analyst for a company that does onsite wellness and healthcare for larger businesses. Her dream job is to be Director of Human Resources and a dance coach. Bri coached at one point of her life and would like to go back to coaching.

So the Titans Cheerleaders know how to cheer for winners from their college days, so they’ll be ready when the Titans ascend in the NFL hierarchy. So the Titans are not in the Super Bowl yet, but that does not mean they stood still on Super Bowl Sunday. The TTC covered the world, spreading cheer to those who could not be in the US for the game. TCC’s Anne was at Camp Zama, a United States Army post located in the cities of Zama and Sagamihara, southwest of Tokyo. Jocelyn was at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, Brooke visiting troops in Australia, Monica doing the same in Korea.

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After a stop in Singapore, Bri went to be part of the troops Super Bowl festivities in Diego Garcia. Where in the world is Diego Garcia? It is an atoll located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean. Like her Titans Cheerleaders teammates, Bri took her winning smile and winning attitude to support the troops stationed a long way from home for the big game.

And with the Super Bowl in the books, it is time to think about next season’s NFL cheerleading auditions! Starting with the Titans Cheerleaders’ VIP Training Workshop on February 28th to Pre-Audition Clinics on April 3rd to preliminary auditions on April 9th, Director Stacie Kinder’s 2016 squad will be named before you know it. Audition info is at this link.

More photos of the wonderful Bri and Kellee from back in October are below, and a few more at this link.

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Captains Meghan and Michelle combined 14 years of St Louis Rams Cheerleaders experience

Meghan's line during the last St Louis Rams home game
Meghan’s line during the last St Louis Rams home game

Michelle's line performs during the quarter break
Michelle’s line performs during the quarter break

On the last day of the NFL season, here is a final shout-out to the St Louis Rams Cheerleaders from their final home game at the Edward Jones Dome. Here our photos of the lines of some dedicated captains. Meghan was in her eighth season and Michelle in her sixth. Congratulations on all of your years cheering on your Rams!

We will see what the future holds for the Rams Cheerleaders. Who knows, they may be cheering on Peyton Manning if he and the Rams find mutual ground. And when the Raiders moved to Oakland, the Raiderettes from LA cheered for them the first season, so anythign can happen!

Meghan in her eighth Rams season
Meghan completed her eighth Rams season
Michelle is
Michelle finished her sixth Rams season

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St. Louis Cheerleader Alexis gets Pro Bowl honor

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The Pro Bowl sidelines will feature Alexis, the last St. Louis Rams Cheerleader to participate for the all-star game for the foreseeable future (one can never say never about a move back to St. Louis, right?).

And speaking of the Pro Bowl, the poor game is taking its knocks, and who knows how long it will continue. But the talented, hard working cheerleaders of the NFL need to continue to reward one of their own per squad to a sweet post-season reward. So cheer fans, if the Pro Bowl was discontinued, what would be a worthy reward for the best of the best NFL cheerleaders? Being part of Super Bowl festivities, assisting with the NFL Honors and other shows that week, and then culminating with dancing on-stage with the halftime performers? Any other ideas?

Here are some photos of Alexis at the last St. Louis Rams home game. Cheers to you and all former and current St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders!

More photos of Alexis are at this link.

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Chicago Blitz Girlz prep class on February 18th

Chicago Blitz Prep Class 1 2016

The Chicago Blitz, a proud member of the American Indoor Football League, will be looking for members for their professional dance team. Jenny Hinz, the Director of the Chicago Blitz Girlz informs us of their upcoming prep class, and additional information is below:

Are you ready to be part of a ‪#‎worldclassdanceteam‬?

The Chicago Blitz Dancers have officially announced their prep class!
Date: Thursday February 18
Time: 8:30-1030pm
Location: Dovetail Dance Studio (2853 W Montrose Ave, 60618 )
Email chicagoblitzdancers@gmail.com with any questions
Meet the director, learn some audition choreography early, get pointers, and get your questions answered for $15. Bring your smiles, we will be photographing!
‪#‎blitzgirlz‬ ‪#‎chicagoblitzdancers‬ ‪#‎dance‬ Chicago Blitz