Cheerleaders’ support extends beyond team

By Jay Gutteridge

The X-FM Girls aren’t your average cheerleaders.

As if being hockey cheerleaders isn’t enough, the 13 women that root for the Ottawa 67’s also make a difference in the community through their work with various local charities.

Now in their third season, the cheerleaders recently released a poster with the profits benefiting the National Capital chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation.

They also work with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Big Sisters and other groups in the Ottawa community.

“I think (cheerleading) is a great way, especially with the 67’s, to get involved in the community because people know us, and we’re out there, and we get to help out with charities,” says team member Christianne Boisvert.

Some of the charity activities involve making appearances, such as performing a cheerleading workshop for Big Sisters. For Children’s Wish the team members are ambassadors,

answering questions and directing people to the organization during 67’s games.

“Anything that gives us a higher profile in the community is wonderful,” says Jane Brennan, director of the National Capital chapter of Children’s Wish.

The X-FM Girls are all

between the ages of 18 and 23. Ten of the members attend the University of Ottawa and many alsohave part-time jobs.

Boisvert estimates that with practice, games and promotional events, the cheerleaders spend around 20 hours per week working for the 67’s, all on a volunteer basis.

“One thing this has actually done is help me learn really good organizational skills,” says Danielle Ledoux of

balancing cheerleading with school and work.

The women are the only

professionally organized cheerleading team for hockey in Canada, which poses unusual challenges.

Because games occur indoors and on ice, cheerleading for hockey can be more difficult than for football or basketball.

“We dance in an arena that houses anywhere between 8,000 to 10,000 fans a night. It’s hot — it’s hard to be dancing in that kind of a facility under the conditions that we dance in,” says Lisa Aucoin, the director of the team.

Aucoin founded the team in 1999 after Jeff Hunt, the 67’s president, attempted to get the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders to attend a game. Aucoin phoned Hunt and asked if he was interested in a 67’s cheerleading team, and the rest is history.

“Our philosophy would be that (the cheerleaders) would be another resource, another icon in the community,” says Hunt.

Hunt adds that the cheerleaders have improved with each season.

The X-FM Girls come from different cheerleading backgrounds. Roxanne Marion

began cheerleading in junior high school, while Ledoux took up dance first. Competitive cheerleaders inspired her to try the sport.

“I saw cheerleading on TV and thought it was really neat. It’s such an athletic sport, and being able to do the stunts and throw girls in the air, that’s what got me into cheerleading initially,” says Ledoux.

Marion says she’d like to pursue other cheerleading ventures. She plans to try out for the Ottawa Renegades cheerleading squad in the Canadian Football League.

Aucoin was fortunate enough to make a career out of cheerleading.

She coaches at the high school and university

levels as well as leading the

Ottawa 67’s X-FM Girls.

“I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for cheerleading,” she says. “It teaches you leadership skills, confidence, poise; so many skills that you wouldn’t imagine just by seeing it.”

The X-FM Girls all seem to agree on the benefits of community service.

Team member Natasha Penney takes great joy out of helping others.

“It’s wonderful to make a

difference and an impact in the lives of other people,” she says.