By: Megan Roche
There are many Thanksgiving traditions to be had; the breaking of the wish bone, a turkey dinner with all the fixings, spending time with family, and of course, a parade. For two Hackettstown area girls, they made the trek with their families to Philadelphia to march in America’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019.
Hollie Ahlers and Sophia Thermenos, who are both Jr. Streaks Rec Cheerleaders, were so excited at the chance to perform in the parade, but that chance did not come easy. The two were selected based on their superior cheerleading skills when they attended UCA’s Pine Forest Cheer Camp this past summer and were officially offered the chance to perform with 500 other cheerleaders from across the nation.
“Hollie and Sophia earned the All-American title via tryout based on superior cheerleading skills. Only the top 10% of cheerleaders who attend Varsity Spirit camps in the summer receive this honor and the chance to march in this prestigious holiday parade. This is their second season cheering competitively together and both have over five years competing on various teams. They are not only friends but will now perform at this prestigious event together.” Lisa Ahlers, Hollie’s mom, shared.
According to Hollie and Sophia, the day of the event was so much fun, despite the very early start time. With the parade kicking off at 8:15 a.m, both girls had to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday to practice, do meet and greets, have photos taken and more. The day of the parade, call time was between 4:30-5:30 a.m.
“When I found out that I had been chosen for this experience, the last day of camp, everyone performed. At the end of the day, they told everyone who performed what they got chosen for. There was another Sophia that was performing as well, so I didn’t think it was me. I heard my last name and I was really excited. I couldn’t believe it.” Thermenos said.
While the Thanksgiving Day Parade prep was happening, the two also had to prep for their regionals competition, where they could potentially grab a bid to compete at UCA Nationals in Orlando later this year.
Hollie, who is a fifth grader at Hackettstown Middle School and Sophia, who is a fifth grader at Mansfield Elementary School, both age 10, have been cheering together on the same squad for two years, but both have been cheering since Kindergarten. The two were grateful to be able to share the experience together.
“I am so excited! I rarely get nervous before competition, but we both know how big this moment is. Hard work pays off.” Hollie Ahlers said.
Lisa and Lauren, Hollie and Sophia’s mothers, couldn’t be prouder of their daughter’s dedication to their sport. The two see the time spent in the gym and practicing, and they know that one day they will look back on their parade experience with happiness and positive thoughts.
“We were told before they went into camp that they would have the opportunity to try out for All American, but these girls are so talented in what they do, and they practice so hard. I definitely thought that they had a chance, but I never thought about being able to have the experience until it was put in front of us. It’s pretty surreal.” Lisa Ahlers said.
Overall, the two enjoyed the moment together as teammates and friends. Through bonding over a Philadelphia dinner cruise, a dance, marching in the parade, the entire weekend will be cherished by the two of them for years to come. Their advice? Take every opportunity that presents itself.
“Just go for it. It’s fine if you never make it. If you still make whatever you are trying to make, just work harder every time and you can do anything.”
The girls plan to continue their competitive cheerleading careers for the years to come and they won’t let anyone or anything get in their way.