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Youth enjoy spirited camp at Lambert
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Izzy Ballstadt, left, and Briley Hughes learn a cheer during a recent cheer camp at Lambert High School. - photo by Jennifer Sami

About this article

This is the last in an FCN summer series on educational school camps for children this summer. Previous articles included:

* Offering lets kids be kids.

* Speed, agility not just for athletes.

* Robotics camp opens path to STEM.

* Video camp captures imagination.

* Campers go back to school.

Tumbles, stunts and shouting — what does that spell? Fun.

Dozens of young, aspiring cheerleaders got to experience the life of one during a recent cheer camp at Lambert High School.

“Girls grow up wanting to be a cheerleader,” said Alex Willis, Lambert’s cheer coach, who heads the camp. “They have a great time. They really, honestly do love cheerleading.”

Willis said he’s run the camp since the school opened. While the campers have a great time, his cheerleaders, who act as counselors and coaches for the camp, learn just as much.

“It teaches them patience,” he said. “They’re always getting coached, so it’s fun for them to be able to turn around and be the coaches.”

The camp was the fourth for rising Lambert senior Claire Gagnier.

“It’s fun to be around the kids,” she said. “Being able to bond with the kids and having fun with them and seeing that they’re having fun too ... it’s really worthwhile to see, and to see how much they can learn in four days.”

At the end of the camp, the campers, ages 4 to 12, performed for their friends and family members.

“My cheerleaders always freak out and say, ‘They’re not going to do good, they’re so quiet,’” Willis said. “But as soon as they stand up in front of their parents, it’s amazing. They turn on, they get loud and they do exactly what we’ve asked them to do.”

In addition to Lambert cheerleaders serving as coaches year after year, Willis said many of the campers return to learn more.

“We get returners every year just because they like to come and be with their friends and learn a little bit of cheers,” he said. “Hopefully someday, we’ll see a lot of these kids show up at the high school.”

Izzy Ballstadt has attended the cheer camp for years. While she wants to be a high school cheerleader one day, she also comes because “it’s really fun.”

“It’s fun and you learn a lot of cheers,” she said. “I met [Briley Hughes] when I was in kindergarten and now we’re in cheer camp together so it’s fun.”

The girls break up into different groups and each learn routines and practice stunts. Gagnier said she is always impressed with how quickly young children can pick up a routine.

For Willis, the camp introduces the community to the program at Lambert, but also is a great way “for my girls to be able to give back to the community.”