When Hanover cheerleaders Madeline Culbert and Madison Maloney began looking for ways to finance a trip to Florida for a performance this winter, they thought they'd have to get donations from many local businesses.
After all, it was about $1,500 each for cheerleaders selected from around the country to attend the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on New Year's Eve. So at the suggestion of Hanover cheer coach Heather Wagaman, the two seniors made a list of stores and organizations and set out to make their pitch.
They ended up only needing one trip.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles, a nonprofit with an office in Hanover, decided to make a $4,000 donation to finance the entire trip. Both Culbert and Maloney will be cheering at Camping World Stadium when LSU plays Louisville at 11 a.m. on Dec. 31.
"We were shocked," Maloney said. "When we said we were going to fund-raise, at the most we were expecting a couple hundred dollars from businesses around the area. We were not expecting that much money, we thought there was going to be a lot more fundraising to do."
Added Culbert: "Our jaws dropped. They're just great people at the Eagles and great examples of the Hanover area."
The large donation was the final step in giving the two cheerleaders what will be an exciting but unexpected experience. Culbert and Maloney earned the chance to perform at the Citrus Bowl this summer, when the Hanover cheerleading team won a competition at a Universal Cheerleaders Association camp at Gettysburg College. The rest of the team decided not to raise funds to go to Florida.
With a small team of 13 girls and most of them relatively new to the sport, Hanover was not expected to be named the camp's "Top Banana," according to Wagaman. There were five other teams competing at the camp.
"We were against teams with like 40 girls at least," Culbert said. "For us to win and be the loudest and most spirited was amazing, because there's like (13) of us and 40 of them. So you knew that we were just all out and for it."
The trip will be Maloney's first time going to Orlando or being on a plane since she was 6. Culbert, on the other hand, just cheered at a parade in Disney World two weeks ago for another UCA performance.
The two Hanover seniors estimated that more than 1,000 cheerleaders from around the country will perform with them at the Citrus Bowl in two weeks. There will be practices in the days leading up to the performance, they said.
"It's such a nice opportunity for us to have because just because we're from a small town doesn't mean we can't do great things," Culbert said.