Cheerleaders, Kids First spread holiday cheer to South End foster kids

The South Whidbey cheer squad gathers for a photo outside the Roller Barn during a recent outing with foster kids. - Photo courtesy of Patti Carroll
The South Whidbey cheer squad gathers for a photo outside the Roller Barn during a recent outing with foster kids.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Patti Carroll

Victoria Rosenthal knows the needs of foster kids in Island County.

Her cousin was in foster care for a time, and that connection drove her to design her senior culminating project around working with foster youth on Whidbey Island.

The South Whidbey High School junior talked to her cheer advisor, Nicole Stayskal, and got the cheer squad involved. Stayskal, in her first year as cheer advisor, jumped at the opportunity to incorporate the cheer squad into community service.

Earlier this month, the cheer squad met with Kids First foster kids and guardians at Roller Barn in Oak Harbor. Kids First is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that aims to fill the gaps in service and funding for Island County kids in foster care.

“It was fun but also sad how many [foster] kids there were,” Rosenthal said.

Stayskal recalled the difficulty of getting her cheerleaders to leave the Roller Barn because they enjoyed their time and experience. Kids First director Patti Carroll praised the cheer team’s willingness to sacrifice a Sunday to teach the kids how to skate — and do some South Whidbey cheers.

“They were just divine,” Carroll said.

“It was an extraordinarily compassionate experience,” she added.

The event was months in the working. Stayskal contacted Carroll in October about how the cheer squad could work with foster kids through Kids First. Now, Stayskal and Carroll expect the partnership to extend beyond the holiday season and this school year.

Rosenthal’s specific senior project was devoted to raising money and awareness for foster youths on the South End. At South Whidbey winter sports events, the cheer team sold stars for $5 through Dec. 17. And earlier this month, the cheer team raised more than $100 from its “Get a Star, Give a Smile,” campaign. The money will be used to purchase Christmas gifts for 14 South End kids.

Carroll said that the foster parents she works with are excellent caregivers and providers, but their funds don’t necessarily cover things such as Christmas presents, music lessons, summer camps, hairstyling and miscellaneous activities their peers get to experience.

“The idea that foster parents are in it for the money is a myth,” Carroll said.

Rosenthal and Stayskal said they didn’t want to set a fundraising goal, but wanted to be pleased with the amount they received, whatever it was.

“It’s been really cool to make other people aware,” Rosenthal said.

Carroll heaped praise on Rosenthal, Stayskal and the cheer team for even considering working with foster kids as a form of community service.

“It’s a cliché, ‘Not everybody can be a foster parent,’ but everybody can do something for foster kids,” Carroll said.

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