Editor's note: The following story was written by Rosemary Leonetti, who handles public relations for the Long Beach School District. Leonetti wrote the story after the district received a $6,000 donation from Hoover High and Jackson High School cheerleaders. (Read more about how the students raised the money here.)
When the cheerleaders of Jackson High School in Massilion, Ohio saw the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, they were moved to take action. They were particularly struck by the fact that the Long Beach School District, located on a barrier island off the coast of Long Island, lost five of their six gymnasiums. Equipment and uniforms for most of the district’s athletic teams were also lost. With the support of Jackson High School Principal Monica Myers, they joined forces with their longtime rival, the Hoover Vikings in North Canton, Ohio, to organize Project Sandy, raising $6,000 to help the Long Beach School District’s athletic program recover from this tremendous loss.
The Jackson cheerleaders learned about the plight of Long Beach High School through Long Beach resident Diane Skudin, who grew up in Ohio. She shared the story of the damaging storm with her lifelong friend Eileen Ivan, who lives in the Jackson School District, and whose daughter Meghan is captain of the Jackson cheerleading squad. The Jackson school community had already been eager to help Sandy victims in some way, so when they heard about the plight of Long Beach Schools, they decided that this would be the best way for them to make a difference. Turning their fundraising efforts into a friendly rivalry between Jackson and Hoover provided added motivation for both schools.
“We have over 27 teams at Jackson High School, and Hoover is a similar size,” said Myers. “More than one-third of our students actively participate in our athletics program, so we understand the pain this kind of loss must have caused.”
The Jackson cheerleaders organized a one-day drive called Candy for Sandy, collecting donations from fellow students on Nov. 30 in return for a small bag of candy. They also distributed collection buckets to all of their elementary schools. The Hoover cheerleaders organized an event at their school called the Two-Day Raise, collecting money on Nov. 29 and 30, awarding t-shirts and other prizes in exchange for donations. Both schools continued collecting donations when they met for a hockey game on Nov. 29. Equally matched in generosity as they are in athletic ability, the two schools tied in their fundraising efforts. Both schools also involved local businesses, soliciting at least an extra $1,000 to help the Long Beach athletics program.
Along with their generous check, the two cheerleading squads reached out in friendship to the Long Beach cheerleaders, sending letters and photos from Project Sandy. The Long Beach cheerleaders created a collage with all the letters and photos, which is now on display in the high school commons for all to see.
“The Long Beach Athletic Department is extremely grateful to the school communities of Jackson and Hoover,” said Arnold Epstein, the Long Beach School District’s director of athletics, physical education and health. “The actions of these students and the adults who supported them in their endeavors demonstrate to us what wonderful and giving communities Jackson and Hoover must be."