By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Cheerleading, football and community outreach will all come together this fall in Rootstown.
Led by a vision of youth cheer director Toccara Ball, Rootstown Youth Football & Cheerleading will promote donations for 23rd Veteran from now through Oct. 5 in a program designed to show its athletes that the same characteristics they are learning in sports can be applied to much more.
Including services to those in need.
In the flyer shared with the organization, Ball wrote:
“Cheerleaders promote community, unity and teamwork. They are inclusive, welcoming and supportive. Cheerleaders give themselves to others by guiding, leading and rallying behind people to generate emotion and excitement.
“Football players have the determination to overcome an opponent and the confidence to do what they have been asked to do for the love of the game, like those who have served our country.”
Ball’s vision first came into focus when 23rd Veteran, which is a nonprofit group that focuses to provide happier and healthier lives for veterans that live with trauma, visited Rootstown Elementary last fall.
“I want to focus on things that are imperative for our cheerleaders to learn how to connect with what being a cheerleader is and how that can show up in their life outside of cheering,” Ball said. “I am a former cheerleader, and I believe it creates leaders. This project can prove to them that the characteristics they learn on the field can be the same characteristics that are important and can lead off the field.”
Teacher Ryan Kavali was responsible for organizing 23rd Veteran coming to Rootstown Elementary and Ball reached out to Kavali in early May to start coordinating a 14-week supplies and monetary donation program.
Director of Youth Football Michael Klem said Ball has been the force to make everything happen.
“When Toccara first approached our board about being involved and supporting the 23rd Veteran organization, it was an absolute ‘yes’ from all of our board members,” said Klem, who is in his third year leading the Rovers’ youth football program. “We couldn’t be more proud as an organization to be involved with helping our veterans live a happier and healthier life. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the sacrifices from all of our veterans, giving back to them is the least we can do.
“Having our youth cheerleaders and football players directly involved with this is something that makes all of us involved with the program very proud of,” Klem added. “Rover Pride is a way of life and stretches across many boundaries.”
Rootstown Youth Football & Cheerleading will accept through Oct. 5 so that they can make a presentation to 23rd Veteran on Veterans Day. The most-needed items include T-shirts, socks, boxers, laundry detergent, pajamas, winter hats, scarves, gloves and jackets.
“We are planning to make the donation at the school so that all of the kids can see what they have accomplished and feel the excitement of what it means to help someone else,” Ball said.
Ball, who is a 2002 graduate of Field High School and graduate of Notre Dame College, intends for Rootstown’s youth football and cheer teams to pursue a different outreach project each season.
“I cheered for a long time and loved it, and I was taught that cheer is so much more than just pom poms,” Ball said. “A lot of the skills I learned from cheerleading have helped me as a mom, wife and in my career, with how to communicate, how to be a leader, confidence and inclusion.”
For anyone interested in donating to 23rd Veteran can reach out to Toccara Ball at 330-206-8974.