Chance of lifetime for cash-strapped cheerleaders in Northern Ireland
A group of young cheerleaders in Co Down who beat the odds to become champions are desperately seeking help after they were unexpectedly chosen to represent Ireland in a major European competition.
The 20 members of the Giants Cheerleaders Junior Pom Dance Squad, aged between 12 and 16, were delighted after being crowned Northern Ireland champions in February, which led to qualification for the European Championship finals.
But dedicated coach Tameron Drake (24), who also coaches the senior Belfast Giants cheerleading squad, fears the girls will be left broken-hearted.
"Our win earlier this year was a big surprise," she said.
"It is very much welcomed, but unfortunately we are not prepared for the financial commitment involved and we don't have much time to raise the money.
"The girls are so proud of themselves and are really excited, but if we don't raise enough money they will be completely devastated."
The three-time Team GB figure skating champion, who traded in her ice-skates for pom poms while studying at the University of Southampton, trains the cross-community group at The Dance Studio in Bangor.
They use second-hand cheerleading kits, which for their coach makes success even sweeter.
"They are so dedicated and have won numerous competitions lately, including the Ireland championships last June, and in February they were also crowned ICE Grand Champions," Tameron said.
"They perform routines at Belfast Giants games on a monthly basis and they all aspire to be on the senior team one day. But right now they really want to go the Netherlands, so we are focusing on how we can make that happen. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Ms Drake has set up a JustGiving page and is appealing to the public to help make the girls' dreams come true.
Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/giantscheerleaders