ELLIS — Schools are normally pretty quiet during the winter break, but the gym at Washington Grade School was full of music, chatter and cheering as the Ellis High School cheerleaders hosted Pom Poms and Pillows, a pee-wee cheer camp on Friday.
Thirty-two girls from age 2 to 9 signed up for the camp with the Ellis Recreation Commission. Much like a slumber party, the girls and cheerleaders wear pajamas and bring their pillows to lounge on to watch a movie to wrap up the morning.
The camp was started about 13 years ago, when cheerleading coach Kristi Bittel first started on the job.
“I said, let’s just do one,” she said. “We started doing this continually six years ago.”
Originally, the camp was on a Saturday, but Bittel said she found better response from parents by having it on a weekday.
“This is where we get a lot more of the little, little girls, not so many of the fourth, fifth and sixth graders,” she said.
“My only requirement is they’ve gotta be potty trained,” she said with a laugh.
In the first part of the morning camp, the 13 members of the award-winning Ellis cheer team taught the girls a routine set to “Shake It Up” by Selena Gomez. The campers will perform during the Jan. 17 home basketball game.
Morgan Bittel and Mikaylah Keller led the lesson, broken down into small segments, as the rest of the team worked side-by-side with the girls. They jumped, spun, posed and punched the air, following along to the beat as best they could.
The girls even got to learn a simple stunt, spotted by the more experienced cheerleaders, of course.
After the cheer lesson, the campers and cheerleaders posed for a group picture, then broke up into groups for a craft project created by senior Cheyenne “Mom” Born.
She earned that nickname at summer cheer camp, she said.
“I just kind of had everything in my bag. Most people just kept maybe their poms and their shoes. I had everything in there that would be needed,” she said.
The girls decorated their picture frames with colorful letters and markers for their names along with glittery stars and hearts.
Afterward, they gathered their pillows in the center of the gym to watch the animated film “Abominable.”
The camp is as much fun for the cheerleaders as the as the campers.
Seeing the girls “super happy” was the best part for senior Clara Crawford.
“They get so excited because this is something different that they don’t get to do very often,” she said.
“When I was little I did this all the time and I loved the excitement. I felt like a cheerleader. There’s so much fun,” she said.
First-year cheerleader Harley Bittel said she was having fun, too.
“I really love to help them with the dancing because it’s really interesting to see all their dance moves,” she said.
“To get up on their break and do this, they’re pretty good girls,” Kristi Bittel said of her team.
The winter break wasn’t all fun and games for the cheer team, however. They had practiced the day before and later Friday had a practice with the cheerleaders from Thomas More Prep-Marian High School. The two teams will perform together when the schools meet Tuesday for basketball.