Dickinson High School's 12 cheerleaders have plenty of reasons to cheer this fall. Not only are they practicing their chants, cheers and routines for the upcoming football season, but they are celebrating an invitation to participate in the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade.
The invitation came with the Spirit Award the squad won at a cheerleading camp held recently in Bismarck and sponsored by the National Cheerleading Association.
"We were shocked to win the coveted Spirit Award," coach Audrey Lenz said. "Everybody gets to vote for the squad they consider the most spirited. It was unanimous, except for our vote."
In addition, five of the DHS cheerleaders were nominated for the All-American team -- the camp's best cheerleaders. Akoya Kitzan was among the winners with the top score.
"We tried out individually in front of our camp," said Kitzan, who is the squad's co-captain.
As the football season gets underway, she is focused on her cheerleading skills.
"Right now, cheerleading is the only thing I'm working on," Kitzan said.
She gave credit for the squad's success to its coach.
"She works extremely hard and is pretty excited for us," she said.
Co-captain McKynzie Frieze also credits the squad's dedication for its success.
"It's all the girls coming together and working really hard together," she said.
The Disney parade is sponsored by the NCA. The squad must raise $13,000 to cover
the expenses of the trip from Dec. 5-8.
The girls will begin practicing the first day they arrive in Florida, Lenz said.
"Then they put all the girls from all over the nation together to practice," she said. "We'll be dressed the same in red and green outfits. They expect 400 to 500 participants. The parade will air Christmas Day on ABC-TV."
The cheerleaders have scheduled several upcoming fundraisers:
* Sept. 6, Homecoming tailgate with face painting from
* Sept. 14, selling food at The Dickinson Press Expo.
* Sept. 21, Fall Fling Vendor Affair, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Biesiot Activities Center, selling baked goods and Spirit headbands from Lillian's.
* Sept. 23, fundraiser night at Pizza Ranch from 5-8 p.m. The public may leave tips for the girls who will be clearing tables.
DHS Midget apparel also can be ordered through the online store at: www.varsitycolors.com/DHSMidgets/home. All proceeds will go to the fundraising efforts.
Lenz, who works as an obstetrics nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center, was cheerleader in high school. She went on to coach a cheerleading squad when she lived in Billings.
"For me personally, I loved getting the crowd riled up and excited -- standing on their feet and cheering on the team," she said. "I loved pulling off the tricks. The girls have to be athletic to know what they're doing."
When girls express an interest in joining the squad, Lenz expects them to have a good attitude.
"I'll take a girl with good attitude over awesome ability -- always having a smile on your face," she said.
She took over the DHS squad in 2009.
"Over time, we have slowly built the program back up," she said.
The girls will cheer for other DHS sports after the football season concludes.
The cheerleaders also have opportunities to compete in state cheerleader competitions, sponsored by the North Dakota Cheer Coach Association. The next state event is Nov. 16 at Fargo.
If fundraising for the Disney trip isn't enough of a challenge, the squad is fundraising to purchase new cheerleading outfits and mats. Each mat costs $1,000 and the squad needs seven of them for practices and to host invitational meets.
"We've literally scheduled something every weekend, and a lot of the girls have part-time jobs," Lenz said.
Lenz realizes that even with the fundraisers, the squad will be short of its goal. For that reason, she is asking the business community for support.
Any donations can be sent to Dickinson High School, specified for the cheerleading squad.