By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports
CEDAR FALLS -- on the last Saturday of July, a group of Iowa?s most talented pre-college football players lined up across from each other in the UNI-Dome for the 46th Annual Iowa Shrine Bowl.
They weren?t the only talent in the dome that night.
A number of cheerleaders were there cheering on the players and Washington?s Baylee Stalder was one of the 34 elite that were chosen for the honor.
At the Shrine Bowl, the cheerleaders performed at pregame with the dance team. They also did a dance that involved some of the Shriner patients.
During the game, the cheerleaders split between North and South and cheered on the sidelines as if it was a regular game.
?We made up cheers and I also learned a lot of new cheers,? Stalder said. ?During the game I kept an eye out on the field for Washington players Jaivonn Willis and Ryan Reighard.?
Stalder went through a lot to receive the honor, starting last October when she tried out at the Zagazig Shrine in Altoona.
?On the day of tryouts they taught us a dance and cheer,? Stalder said. ?I was then given a tryout partner from another town. I knew I had to do my best because they only accepted two kids per school and there were three of us trying out. I also had to do a toe-touch jump and a jump of choice.?
Of three girls who made it from Washington, Stalder was the only one who followed through with getting her sponsorships.
?I was super excited when I learned I was going to be a Shrine Bowl Cheerleader,? Stalder said.
That honor meant raising $800. She went to local businesses and family.
?Each business (Hills Bank, Pierce Auto Body, Federation Bank, Capper Auto Group, Bordwell Law Office, JW Vittetoe Pork) had to choose an ad size and price and give me their advertisement,? Stalder said.
She also received help from her grandfathers -- Ron Stalder of Washington, Iowa, and Raymond Cheever of Kimberling City, Missouri.
Stalder had to attend five days of camp at UNI.
?I had to arrive to camp already knowing eight routines that I learned from videos a month in advance,? Stalder said. ?We practiced outside in the grass for the first two days. It was much harder then any cheer practice that I have had before. When it rained, we moved practice into the dome gyms.?
Practices were very long, up to seven hours a day. The training was intense.
Stalder was also taught an assortment of stunts that were completely new.
?At the end of each day, my body was very sore,? she said.
At least camp wasn?t all practice.
?We also got to do fun things like teach some of the Shriner patients cheers, go to Lost Island Water Park, and have a hog roast,? Stalder said.
Saturday before the game, the cheerleaders were in a parade.
?I got to walk next to the Queen of the Shrine bowl in front of the rest of the cheerleaders,? Stalder said.
Saturday night was game time.
?Before our halftime performance, I was nervous,? Stalder said.
She had good reason to be tense.
?This was it, my last time ever being a cheerleader,? Stalder said.
She channeled those nerves into a perfect routine.
?The performance was amazing and I hit all of my stunts and didn?t miss a beat on any of my routines,? Stalder said.
There was a problem that made it harder, but her experience helped her overcome.
?It was difficult because the dome echoed the music,? Stalder said. ?After halftime, I cheered on the sideline for the rest of the game.?
Stalder took advantage of an opportunity and raised money for a great cause while meeting people.
?The Shrine Bowl was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,? Stalder said. ?I made a lot of new friends from across the state and met truly inspiring children. I listened to a story about one of my fellow cheerleaders, who was once a Shriners patient.?
The Shrine Bowl helps raise money for the Shriners hospital. That then enables the hospital to give medical treatment to children to no cost.
To date, the Iowa Shrine Bowl has raised over $2,600,000 for The Shriner?s Hospitals for Children. Funds for The Shriner?s Hospitals For Children are developed by ticket sales, advertising in the Shrine Bowl program, merchandise sales, contributions and sponsorships.
Iowa Shrine Bowl Inc., is an incorporated 501(c)3 fundraising organization.