The Sparkles cheer team, a partnership between Pleasant Valley High School cheerleaders and Davenport's Hand-in-Hand, are being recognized for gathering to give back.

In November, a story submission from Sarah Herr of Bettendorf was named one of five national finalists in Modern Woodmen of America s Gatherings with Purpose giveaway.

The story received the most votes in the online contest, earning more than 4,600 votes over the two-week voting period.

Hand-in-Hand and the Sparkles will each receive $2,500 as contest winners. The presentation will take place during the Sparkles cheer practice. Members of the media are encouraged to attend.

When: Monday, Dec. 21, 5:45 p.m.

Where: Pleasant Valley High School cafeteria

Herr shared the story of a wonderful, and perhaps unlikely, partnership between a high school cheerleading squad and Hand-in-Hand, a non-profit organization providing critical services for families with special needs. The Pleasant Valley High School cheerleaders decided to create a high school-based cheerleading squad specifically designed to include students with special needs. To find potential participants, the squad volunteered to gather and cheer at Hand-in-Hand's annual Family Fun Walk fundraiser. The group dressed in uniform and spent the morning managing the games and painting designs on eager little faces. During the walk, the girls cheered on the participants with Hand in Hand, yes we can!

Through this gathering, the cheerleaders met several young girls and their families who enthusiastically supported the idea of starting a new cheer squad to include students with disabilities. Within two weeks, 10 girls with disabilities from Down Syndrome to autism signed on to be the first Spartan Sparkles! Since this time, the Sparkles have cheered through two football seasons and one basketball season in front of packed crowds and standing ovations. To express gratitude to Hand-in-Hand and more tangibly support its programs, the cheerleaders again gathered on a Saturday afternoon over the summer collecting donations for Hand-in-Hand. The group raised both awareness and $2,000 in donations for Hand-in-Hand. Two weeks later when they attended the next Family Fun Walk, the Sparkles had much to cheer about!

Nearly 100 stories were entered in the online contest and five finalists were chosen. The stories spotlighted families and friends who volunteered together to meet a community need, raise money for a local cause or add a volunteer activity to a social gathering.

Modern Woodmen members nationwide gather for good through local camps (chapters) and youth service clubs. The giveaway was launched to complement national efforts to bring people together to help others and meet needs in their local communities. Modern Woodmen sells financial products not to benefit stockholders, but to support its stakeholders members, their families and their communities. How? Through social, charitable and volunteer events where members gather.

Founded in 1883, Modern Woodmen of America touches lives and secures futures. The fraternal benefit society offers financial services and fraternal member benefits to individuals and families throughout the United States.

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