Durham’s Senior Divas cheerleading squad is out to get you moving and thinking positive.
The mantra of the seven-time N.C. Senior Games gold medalists is simple: “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”
But what keeps the Divas playing is that they have so much fun while they’re doing it.
That’s why, founder Louise Gooche explains, the group has turned down enticing offers from NASCAR and “America’s Got Talent.”
“They wanted us to be able to travel whenever they said travel, stay as long as they wanted us to stay; it was very, very binding,” she explained. “So, I thanked both of them for even thinking about us.”
“We wanted to keep it as a fun type of thing, and just encourage people. I’m not in it to make money, or anything like that. It’s just strictly fun! That’s what we do!”
The 13 active “Divas and Dude” as they call themselves, range from 56 to 77 years old, and, as 10-year veteran Diva Edna Titus said, “We all met at the Y, and it just keeps us coming to the Y.”
The Divas were born of an idea for a fun surprise at the Durham YMCA’s senior citizen Christmas party. But before they even made it that far, they were asked to be in a YMCA promotional video.
Things just took off from there.
“People would see us practicing, and they’d ask us to come and do their events, and I thought, ‘Well, we need to get some uniforms!’” Gooche said. “All we had was white shorts and red T-shirts. So, then we bought a set of uniforms, and then we really looked cute!”
This relationship with the YMCA has been mutually beneficial.
“All the proceeds (at the YMCA” go into programs that we have, such as Y Learning, our LIVESTRONG program, swimming lessons, things of that nature,” said Britney Johnson, wellness director at the American Tobacco Campus YMCA. “The Divas volunteer their time, their services, to help bring awareness to the Durham community, and help raise money for our programs. They’ve been a big help with that, and, actually, all of what they do ties in with community.”
In return, the community gives back to the Divas.
“(The YMCA) provides a place for us to rehearse twice a week,” Gooche said. “They also provide us with our sweat suits, our pom-poms, the megaphones, the uniforms, our flags. They will just continuously come to me and ask, ‘What do we need? How are things going?’ And if I say I would like to have something they say to order it, and it’s just as simple as that!”
Solo Dude Keith Williams said he never thought, at his age, he’d be part of an award-winning cheerleading group.
“I love to perform for the elderly in the nursing homes, and bring a little joy to their hearts, and let them know once you become a senior, you don’t have to stop, you can still do something,” he said.
And, he added, “We’re still looking for more Dudes 55 and up!”