LARAMIE, Wyo. - Volunteer work is a service done by all athletes at the University of Wyoming, but the UW Spirit Team has found a new way to serve the community. Once a week the team trades in their pom-poms for an apron at the Laramie Soup Kitchen.
There are 60 members in the UW Spirit Program, broken down into four teams including; co-ed cheer, all-girl cheer, the Golden Spurs dance team, and the Mascot team. The team is lead by program director and head coach Mathew Ortega, who is returning for his second year with the UW Spirit Team.
“The Spirit Team’s theme of the year is ‘Leadership Through Service’, where we want to develop relationships in the community,” said Ortega.
When helping out at the Laramie Soup Kitchen, Ortega explains that the team does more than just serve food. Doing whatever is asked of them, the team can be found behind the scenes cleaning and doing meal prep.
A big difference in this opportunity is that the team does not mandate that every cheerleader attend. The members volunteer within the team, serving in smaller groups on their own time.
“Volunteering for the soup kitchen at St. Matthews was especially rewarding because we were able to help out more directly and see the effects of our work immediately. Also, it was very hands on and we were doing the cooking and cleaning, rather than fundraising or raising awareness,” said Cassie Caddock, senior co-ed cheer member.
Caddock’s duties included cutting potatoes and doing prep work for the soup with her teammate Justin, while Golden Spurs member Jacque and cheerleader Mona were put to work washing dishes.
The squad worked a shift for two hours, ending their time by cleaning up tables and storing their meal-prep for the following day’s use. Although volunteer work is no new territory to the squad, Ortega noticed a “sense of pride” from them by choosing to help on their own time.
The team logged over 180 hours of community service last year including work at the Campus Clean-Up, the Buddy Walk, and Toys for Tots. They look to surpass that number this year.
“The community gives us so much and it is our responsibility to give back and do our part to make Laramie and the University of Wyoming a great place to live and get an education,” said Caddock.
When the team is not found doing some of their many community outreaches, they are continuing to cheer on the Wyoming sports teams.
Placing ninth at nationals last year in Daytona Beach, FL, the team received a gold bid for nationals this year where they will compete in April. Until then, they continue to look for new ways to give back to the community of Laramie.