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2012 Junior Patriots Cheerleaders find plenty to cheer for

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Football season is still three months away, but that does not mean the cheering has stopped around Gillette Stadium.

Last week, the Junior Patriots Cheerleaders, a group of 7 to 17-year old girls led by New England Patriots Cheerleader Director Tracy Sormanti, took the field to help cheer on participants during the Harvard Pilgrim Road Race at Gillette Stadium. Accompanied by Sormanti and members of the Patriots cheerleading squad, the Junior Cheerleaders got a taste of the program's new co-appearance initiative.

The event kicked off around 4:00 p.m., as the Junior Cheerleaders, adorned in full red, white and blue cheer outfits, assembled on the field and helped motivate participants competing in the youth fun runs that preceded the Harvard Pilgrim Road Race. The Junior Cheerleaders provided one last boost of encouragement as the runners raced across the finish line.

While cheering is certainly the core focus of the program's two May clinics, the Junior Patriots Cheerleading program also emphasizes the importance of community activism and confidence building. These values were evident during the second portion of the day, as girls were randomly assigned partners and instructed to talk among themselves. Following the five minute meet and greets, the girls stood up in pairs and introduced their partners to the entire group.

The exercise paid immediate dividends, as the girls displayed their newly honed skills during their evening appearance in Patriot Place.

According to Sormanti , "When [the girls] took those skills up to Patriot Place and did their appearances for the different charitable partners that we worked with, I saw that they [felt] comfortable and confident standing next to their new friends and speaking with the people that they met in the community."

The Junior Cheerleaders were not alone as they greeted patrons at the booths of partners such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and NFL Play 60. Instead, the girls stood side by side with some of their most influential role models: rookie and veteran members of the Patriots Cheerleaders.

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Amanda Gaudette, a rookie member of the Patriots Cheerleaders and a student at Dean College, accompanied the girls at one of the booths in order to provide support and reinforce some of the lessons that were taught throughout the summer.

"As a kid I [danced] in events at nursing homes and also performed for the less fortunate," recalled Gaudette. "[I tell] the girls to always stay positive, have confidence and keep smiling."

Despite the fact that the Junior Patriots Cheerleading program only meets a few times throughout the course of the summer, each session and appearance clearly leaves a lasting impression on the young girls.

"My daughter has made it very clear that she is coming back every year until she is 17," said Michael Kennedy, whose daughter Madyson is a first year member of the Patriots Junior Cheerleaders and a Pop Warner cheerleader in Taunton, MA. "She totally enjoys it and thinks this is just the greatest thing."

Although the Patriots Junior Cheerleader clinics have wrapped up for the summer, Sormanti sent all of the girls home with an instructional DVD containing the routine that they learned and encouraged them to practice in preparation for the program's grand finale: an on-field performance prior to the New England Patriots preseason opener vs. the New Orleans Saints on August 9 at Gillette Stadium.

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