NewsCovering Kentucky


Kentucky cheerleaders use skills to help flood relief efforts

moody uk cheer story
Posted at 11:21 PM, Aug 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-18 23:21:47-04

The University of Kentucky's Cheerleading team has 24 national championships, and it turns out their skills can be pretty practical when it comes to flood relief efforts.

Head coach Ryan Martin O'Connor was a student at the University of Alabama when a tornado hit Tuscaloosa in 2011, so she knows what it's like to live through a disaster. When she saw the floods in Eastern Kentucky, she knew the team had to help out.

"We were able to purchase a full set of uniforms for Letcher County, which was awesome, but then I was like, 'Okay, I'm ready to do some physical work as well'," O'Connor said.

The cheerleaders were on board too.

"We just wanted to make sure we could do our part. We have a platform. People look up to us. People watch us. If they see us trying to help the community, I think that drives other people to want to help the community just as much," said senior Hunter Henderson.

Yesterday, the team showed up at the former A.B. Combs Elementary School in Perry County. It will host students from schools that were damaged, but it's been closed for a few years and needed some cleaning up.

"It was pretty rough. It was dirty. The floors were almost rotted. All their school supplies were ruined, sadly," said junior Rylee Hornsby.

"The goal was to get everything out. Everything had to go. Ceiling tiles had to go, lockers had to go," said O'Connor.

The ceiling tiles were a challenge. The school was full of them, and there were only one or two ladders. That was where those skills the cheerleaders have been practicing turned practical.

"We had some makeshift ladders, I guess," said Henderson. "Coach Ryan was like, 'Shoulder stands! Go! Everybody that's a shoulder, grab a girl!' and then the girls are just taking ceiling tiles, taking ceiling tiles."

"The superintendent told us we put them three days ahead of schedule because they didn't even have the paint ready. They weren't expecting us to get done as quickly as we did," said O'Connor.

After a day of seeing the devastation and helping however they could, they came back to Lexington with a new perspective.

"You can't take anything for granted. Those people had no idea that that was going to happen. Those people had no control over if that was going to happen. You really just have to live your life every day being thankful for what you have," Henderson said.