For the cheerleaders in Caston, Indiana, #UCAcamp isn’t just a time to learn new skills and fresh material. It’s also an opportunity to give back to their local community while enjoying some team bonding time. The Caston cheerleading program has made it a tradition to do a community service project every summer during their home camp. “We do our own private camp, so we do lots of extra activities during the 3-4 days to make camp special,” Caston High School Cheer Coach Ellen King said. Caston cheerleaders work on these projects during lunch breaks, before camp starts each day and in the evening before their team bonding activities.

All cheerleaders, grades 7-12, work on the community service projects, and their camp’s UCA staff helps, too! For the past few summers, Caston Cheerleaders have made fleece blankets for Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. The initiative came from the Indiana Extension Homemakers Association. Caston’s local club has made and delivered many blankets to the hospital. King thought it would be a perfect project for the cheerleaders. “The girls all knew of someone, or had been treated at Riley themselves. The biggest connection is that the blankets go to kids,” King said.

In addition to the fleece blankets for the children’s hospital, Caston cheerleaders have also made decorations to donate to an area nursing home for the past 10 years. “Some of the girls were able to visit there during the school year and they now have a heart for the residents there,” King said. Recently the team also started making decorations for a home for special needs children near their community.

Throughout King’s 33 years of coaching, the Caston cheerleading program has made volunteering and community service a standard. It’s become a part of being a Caston cheerleader and being part of the community.