Jerry Seale gazed around the gym at the hundreds of people dancing, singing and clapping together, a cross section of Rock Hill attorneys and custodians, teachers and students, high school athletes and their rivals, haves and have-nots and made this observation:
With the election less than a week old, this is on time. Our country was divided a week ago. This is the kind of thing we need to bring this country back together. This is the epitome of community coming together. Everybodys here for one goal, and thats to help kids.
It was Cheer for Childrens Gratitude is the Attitude gathering, a three-hour celebration of music, dancing and entertainment intended to bring joy and inspiration to children.
Seale, a former high school athletics coach who brought children from his High Hopes summer camp to the event, was one of many who played a part in the annual bash.
Nearly a year in the making, Gratitude drew a crowd of several hundred to South Pointe High School to see 200 performers, dance, socialize and participate in a drawing in which winners took home one of a handful of bicycles.
Performers included the Rock Hill Concert Choir, Independence Elementary Schools step team, Rock Hill recording artist and South Pointe High teacher Carlo Dawson and Trillogy, a collective of R&B and hip hop artists.
There were impersonations Ray Charles, James Brown and YMCA employees dressed as the Village People to perform YMCA.
Many marveled at how Cheer for Children has managed to meld a diverse community consistently each year for two decades.
Rock Hill is kind of a divided city, said Nyles Bullock, a hip hop artist from Rock Hill who performs with Trillogy. This brings everybody together. The children need that. Its rare.
Cheer for Childrens annual celebration used to take place in December, but organizers moved it up a month to avoid competing with holiday toy drives.
Asked to explain the non-profits mission, founder Winslow Schock points to the groups brochure, which spells it out: Cheer for Childrens goal is to empower youth by giving hope and inspiring courage.
CFCs message of Pay it Forward asks and encourages students to take the lead in creating a more caring culture in their schools and community.
During each annual celebration, dozens of high school students volunteer to be mentors and spend the day with a child. They chat, dance and offer advice.
Devonta Blake and Kel Caldwell, both South Pointe High juniors, remember attending Cheer for Childrens annual party as kids.
Caldwell won a Celtics basketball.
This year, she and Blake returned as mentors.
It keeps kids out of trouble, Caldwell said. It gives them something to do.
Schock is a great guy, Blake said. Too many people who are successful, dont give back. Hes a big part of our community.
Ruby Collins has been a Cheer for Children volunteer for 13 years. Shes every bit as enthusiastic as her first year.
Just to see the glitter and highlight in these kids faces, its worth it all, every ounce of energy, she said.
Collins knows what it takes to pull the event off.
If it was not for the volunteers, this would not go on, she said. No money is paid to anyone.
God has just blessed this ministry a hundred fold over.
Cheer volunteers spend months preparing. This year, the grouped worked with Rock Hill schools to get donations of clothes, books and school supplies to needy students in the months leading up to Saturdays celebration.
This is a year-long project, Collins said Saturday afternoon. As soon as this is over, we will be talking about next year at three oclock today.
Want to know more?
Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072