Panthers cheer for a cause

Pekin High School cheerleaders Taylor Daniel, Lauren Conklin, Kayla Bunnell, Dominique Keith and Alicia Brock present a check of $1,000 to Laurie Hornback to benefit the Bras for a Cause foundation after raising money through the first annual Tackle Down Breast Cancer Pink Out game on Oct. 1. Kayden Donovan and Karissa McKim, not pictured, round out the Pekin cheerleader squad.

PEKIN — Paula Richards had modest expectations for the first annual Tackle Down Breast Cancer Pink Out game.

The head coach of the Pekin High School cheerleading team had the idea of doing something in conjunction with a Panther football game this past season that would help raise money for a local charity. The local charity proved to be Bras for a Cause, an organization committed to raising money to ensure all Iowans, uninsured or underinsured, have access to mammograms, cervical screenings and related medical programs or projects.

"I was hoping we might be able to hand over a check for $100," Richards said. "I was hoping we might be able to sell 20 or 25 pink-out shirts."

On Thursday, Richards and the Pekin High School cheerleaders handed over a check to Laurie Hornback with the total proceeds going to the Bras for a Cause foundation. The check was for $1,000 after 198 t-shirts were sold in what proved to be a very successful fundraising effort as communities from both Pekin and Lisbon ultimately helped the hard work of the Panther cheerleaders and their coach pay off in a big way.

"The girls were all in right from the start of the school year to get the word out as fast as we could," Richards said. "They came up with a lot of ideas from the designs of the t-shirts to having the little kids cheer camp on the same night. We had our little kids wear their pink t-shirts. The band said they would wear pink. The student section wore pink. The football team had pink stickers on their helmet. They wanted to get pink socks. They just couldn't get them ordered in time.

"It was one of those things where we just wanted to try something this first year. I was floored by the response. It's something we hope we can expand on."

Richards is very hopeful that the Tackle Down Breast Cancer Pink Out game will become a tradition during upcoming Pekin football seasons. After getting approval at the start of the school year back in late August, Richards and the Pekin cheerleaders had just over a month before the Oct. 1 football game between Pekin and Lisbon at Tom Stone Field.

"We had to hit the ground running. There wasn't much time to plan anything," Richards said. "I have great girls. I can't say enough good things about what they do on and off the field."

Alicia Brock, one of the seven Pekin cheerleaders that helped Richards put together the events for the inaugural Tackle Down Breast Cancer Pink Out game, talked about what it meant to have such a huge financial impact on people in need of the funds to fight the disease.

"Hearing from Laurie about what our donation is going to do only makes us want to have a bigger amount next year," Brock said. "I'm really proud of Paula. She did all the work behind the scenes to get this approved. I'm just glad that she was able to make it happen and we could help make it happen."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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