HAMLET – The Hamlet Middle School gymnasium was filled with a bustling crowd Thursday morning as parents and families watched local girls ages four to 18 culminate their week-long Richmond Raiders cheer camp by performing their newly acquired moves.
The Richmond Senior High School cheerleading team held its biggest annual fundraiser Monday through Wednesday at the high school, before moving the final performances to HMS due to remodeling.
With nearly 150 campers in attendance, head coach Meredith Hood and the Raiders’ varsity and junior varsity cheer squads embraced their community by teaching hopeful future Richmond cheerleaders a variety of cheerleading moves and techniques.
“This is our biggest fundraiser,” Hood said, who has been the Richmond cheer coach since 2012. “We want our participants to have fun and learn leadership qualities. And we want them to learn the proper fundamentals of cheerleading.”
During the first three days of camp, RSHS cheerleaders were assigned an age group and progressed through a series of cheerleading stations. Campers participated in cheering, dancing, tumbling and stunt activities, all of which were incorporated into their performances Thursday.
All four Richmond County Schools middle schools, as well as Ninth Grade Academy, received more technical training, as their cheer seasons are underway. It is the hope of the Richmond program to teach and encourage the middle school teams what it takes to be a Raider cheerleader, while also preparing them for the possibility of cheering for them in the future.
During Thursday’s performances, small competitions were held to showcase the talents of individual and team efforts. Ellerbe Middle’s sixth grader Tatum Rhyne won the individual tumbling competition, while Rockingham’s Saniah Durham, who is entering eighth grade, won the jump competition. In team events, Hamlet won full stunt event, and Rockingham closed out the day’s activities by winning the “spirit stick” cheering battle.
Hood, who has a celebrated background in high school and collegiate cheerleading at Campbell University, understands that this event is much more than a fundraiser.
“This is an opportunity for our (Richmond) girls to give back to the community,” Hood said. “All these little girls want to grow up to be Raiders cheerleaders. We do this (camp) all for them.”
The cheer camp also serves as an opportunity for the RSHS cheerleaders to work on teambuilding exercises and develop leadership qualities. Rising sophomore Makayla Russell, who is a back spotter on the varsity squad, takes a lot of pride in being able to help the middle school cheerleaders.
“I really enjoy teaching the younger girls how to stunt,” Russell said, who is entering her sixth year of cheerleading, and second with Richmond. “Working with them is great. It teaches me to be a leader, and helps everyone build better teamwork skills.”
For the middle school-aged cheerleaders, the camp serves as a way for them to learn about the expectations for what it takes to be a Raider cheerleader. It’s a rigorous program that demands relentless training, intense physical strength, and the ability to give back to the community. And even after a short few days, there are lasting effects.
“It’s really nice to be able to come together and become closer with my teammates,” Ellerbe’s captain Jamie Kay Sears said. “The Richmond girls have been great. They’ve given us a lot of help and good advice.”
Hood hopes that through the fundraising event, the community and the team will benefit moving forward. But it’s not about the funds raised; for her, it’s all about the kids and the time spent improving on the mat.
“The kids are my favorite part about doing this,” Hood said as she’s swarmed by a group of girls giving her a hug. “I love them. All of them are different, but getting to come out here and work with them, and help them grow, it’s worth it. Being a part of their lives is great.”
The Richmond Raiders cheerleading team will soon begin its youth Raider cheerleading program. For more information, contact Meredith Hood at (910) 206-0254.