TOWNSEND -- In addition to providing a boost to their peers on the sports field, the varsity cheerleaders at North Middlesex Regional High School have consistently given a boost to their community, and now they're being recognized for it.
The squad received the Community Service Award from the Massachusetts School Administrators' Association due to its charity efforts throughout the year.
"We have a motto -- sharing is caring. We're trying to get rid of the stigma that cheerleading is all about cheering at games. These girls are showing other people that they can do a lot more," said Barbara Guerriero, the cheerleading coach.
Throughout the school year, the cheerleaders have participated in and run a variety of service projects to benefit those in the community and beyond.
They collected canned goods and hygiene items for the Make a Difference Day program, which serves needy and elderly people. They also collected coats for Townsend Ecumenical Outreach this winter, and used jeans for Aeropostle's Teens for Jeans drive.
The cheerleaders have also raised money for the Breast Cancer Awareness Program, the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
In addition, the girls practice five days a week for about 10 months out of the year.
The squad's captains said that their community service work is one of the best parts of being on the team.
"It really brings us together and also makes us feel rewarded," said senior Kendall Dutton-Smith, one of three captains of the squad.
Her fellow captains, Kristy Landine and Jenny Sheridan, agreed.
"For the families that are impacted by the work that we do, they see us helping out the community in a big way," Landine said.
NM Athletic Director James Bunnell said that the enthusiasm for community service has largely been driven by students, both on the cheerleading squad and beyond.
"It's very positive for the school. It shows a lot of what the kids do outside of athletics. It's not just about winning, losing and competing. A lot of the teams, not just the cheerleaders, have been reaching out to the community," Bunnell said.
Guerriero said that for the cheerleaders on her squad, the satisfaction of helping others is a reward in itself.
"These girls are very devoted, sincere and extremely helpful. They have given up so much of themselves to help others," Guerriero wrote in her nomination letter to the MSAA. "They don't do it for the glory or the praise -- they do it because the need is there and it makes them feel good."
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