For the cheerleaders on the Middlesex County and Union County All-Star teams, the Snapple Bowl is more than a football game.

The Snapple Bowl, an all-star charity football game, unites Middlesex and Union counties to raise funds for ­­­­a worthy cause. All proceeds from the event are donated to the Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities. Since the Snapple Bowl began in 1994, the event has raised over $600,000 for charity.

Prior to the big game, the football players, cheerleaders, and coaches get the opportunity to visit the Children’s Specialized Hospital or the Lakeview School to get a firsthand look at how the Snapple Bowl makes a difference.

“Every year I get a little nervous because I know what the message behind the Snapple Bowl is,” former Middlesex County cheerleader and current Union County cheer coach, Lucinda Toto, said. “I knew it was for a charity, but then we went to visit the hospital and it impacted me, and to coach in it now, and to see these kids go through it and get the message across to be grateful for everything you have, it’s a much bigger world out there than being a cheerleader.”

In addition to giving back to the community, the game allows rivalries to be broken and new friendships to be made as the teams are comprised of athletes from almost every school in each county.

This year, the squads from both counties boast their largest teams in Snapple Bowl history. The team from Middlesex County having selected 41 cheerleaders while 29 cheerleaders make up the Union County roster, respectively.

Despite the game occurring annually, the cheerleaders selected never fail to remember what makes the event special.

“Last year was really emotional for me because it was the first time I had ever experienced something like this, so it was really an emotional experience for me and I learned so much from it,” Demi Massih, two-time Snapple Bowl selection and East Brunswick cheerleader said. “This year I was so scared they were going to pick someone new, but then I got asked again and I was so happy because I wanted to do it, I would do this again and again every year if I could.”

For Middlesex County coach, Jackie Cassidy, the friendships made on the sidelines lasted longer than the game.

“I met my college roommate because I cheered Snapple Bowl with her,” Cassidy told mycentraljersey.com. “You really learn a lot from meeting other people, you learn leadership, you learn to adapt to new situations.”

From fundraising to friendship, the Snapple Bowl brings the cheerleaders and the communities from two counties together, leaving a lasting impact beyond just a football game.

Source: My Central Jersey