In competitive sports, it’s not often you get a showing of support from your competition.
But a Florida cheerleading team is sharing their victory with Connecticut cheerleaders who have been mourning the loss of one of their own.
Eleven-year-old Jaidyn Bolduc of Vernon died in a car crash just days before her competitive cheerleading team, the Manchester Red Hawks, was expected to take the stage at nationals in Florida.
At the competition, her 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old teammates, “lit that mat on fire. Everyone knew who the Manchester Redhawks were, who Jaidyn was. When we were leaving, everyone was screaming out ‘Jaidyn, Jaidyn,’” said Manchester Redhawks coach and cheer director Tanya Pabe.
Her teammates held up a picture of the 11-year-old's face during the routine in moments she was supposed to be flying through the air.
Moments before services for Jaidyn Monday, Coach Pabe received a surprise package in the mail.
“I came home to this big box on my step and I’m like what is this.”
It was a shiny victory trophy originally awarded to the South Pasco Predators.
While they beat the Redhawks, they felt compelled to share their win with their worthy competitors.
“We were floored, we sat back and started crying. It was a heart-breaking, touching experience that another team cared so much about how our girls were,” said Redhawks assistant coach Kimberly Bonneau.
In a letter the Predators wrote, “Being able to show the strength that you did, makes your team the true champions.”
And while Jaidyn’s cheerleading family checks in on each other daily through an app, community members are coming together to support her family too.
“Most of the family, they’re just paralyzed with grief. They can’t even think of things like Christmas shopping or putting a meal on the table,” said Tracy Will, who would see Jaidyn at family parties.
Jaidyn’s mom and grandmother were also in the car crash. They’re recovering from serious injuries as they grieve.
“Every single picture I have of Jaidyn her arms were like this, she was reaching out to hug another little cousin.”
The Florida team's act of reaching out meant the world to this team. Sportsmanship at its finest, and a reminder that life is much more than competition.
“The girls have shown how strong they are by being there for one another, and that’s just the same I want for the community. Just support one another. Don’t take each day for granted,” said Bonneau.
It’s the people who touch your lives, even for way too short of a time that matter most, like Jaidyn.
“She flew high,” said Pabe, as the hashtag #flyhighJaidyn remembers the cheerleader online.