Members of local senior cheer squad show off their moves and spirit

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The Piedmont Cheering Hearts perform during the "Outta the Bag" lunch program at Winston Square Park. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — There are some things you’re really never too old for. For the ladies of the Piedmont Cheering Hearts, those things include pompoms, miniskirts and pink shoe laces, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Ranging in age from 53 to 85, the Piedmont Cheering Hearts have been stealing the hearts of Triad residents while quickly making a name for themselves as the area’s premium senior cheerleading squad, taking home gold at the regional Senior Games this spring.

“There’s no other (senior cheer squad) in the Piedmont,” said Jane Bodenhamer, one of the group’s co-leaders. “So, we won gold.”

Bodenhamer, a 68-year-old Rural Hall mother and grandmother, said she saw cheerleading listed among the Senior Games events. Organizers told her they’d never had a cheerleading squad actually compete. So she started one.

“We have a good time,” she said.

Bodenhamer recruited other women from The Living Well, a senior center in the basement of a Rural Hall church where most of the women attend and participate in other activities.

In the weeks leading up to their performance at the Senior Games, team members were getting together for practice several times a week in the small cinderblock room. They wrote their own cheers, borrowing a few favorites from days of high school cheerleading past.

“Boom Dynamite,” “Let’s Get a Little Bit Rowdy” and “A Little Bit Louder” are in their regular rotation. Several of Bodenhamer’s granddaughters are cheerleaders and have taught her some of their moves.

“My girls love the fact that grandma is doing this,” said Emily Muse, Bodenhamer’s daughter who came to see a Cheering Hearts performance last week. “This is perfect for her.”

The squad made their own uniforms, too: pink T-shirts, adorned with black felt megaphones and the letters “PCH,” get tucked into silky black skirts (sewn by squad member Ghislaine Vesitis) and paired with black tights and tennis shoes, tied tight with hot pink laces.

“Everything we’ve got is homemade,” said Judy Revels, 70, of Rural Hall.

Everything, right down to the pompoms made from cut up black and pink plastic tablecloths.

The squad is a looking for a sponsor to help cover the entry and travel costs for the Senior Games’ state finals in Raleigh this fall. Maybe they’d even get real pompoms.

The women said, at first, most people don’t believe them when they say they’re cheerleaders. After they see them, though, they’re usually smiling.

“We’re just doing it for fun,” said Hortense Hall. “We’ve got so much response.”

At 85, Hall is the oldest cheerleader in the group but is no less spunky. They bring her out front for the “Who Rocks the House?” cheer, because they like the way she rocks it “all the way down.”

“I said I didn’t need to be out there shaking with this short skirt on, but it’s been fun,” Hall said.

During a practice last week, getting ready for three performances this week, Bodenhamer led the squad through choreographing nearly a dozen cheers.

“Let’s look lively, girls,” she said. “Pump it up.”

Lively, they are, as they stomp, clap and shimmy in near-unison. The moves aren’t complicated, but that’s OK. It’s not cartwheels and flips that are drawing people in; it’s spirit.

“They’re redefining age,” said Vijya Campagne, a member of Winston-Salem Writers who caught the Piedmont Cheering Hearts performance in downtown Winston-Salem Tuesday. “It’s great to see their spunk.”

The squad was one of several acts recruited by Winston-Salem Writers to perform during the first “Outta the Bag” lunch series. The writer’s group is co-sponsoring the event with the Winston-Salem Parks and Recreation Department to get downtown workers packing a lunch to eat at Winston Square Plaza each Tuesday during the summer when an hour of entertainment will be provided.

Lynn Byrd, program director for Outta the Bag, said she hopes the get the Cheering Hearts back for another performance this summer.

Bodenhamer said they’d be in.

“That’s what this is all about,” she said, “spreading joy.”