On Sunday, two Derry Demons cheerleading squads were so impressive at regionals that their performances earned them a trip to Florida.

The Demons Pee Wee team, which won the state championship in October, took second place at the regionals, which were held in a daylong competition at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. Meanwhile, the Junior Midget team, which was third in New Hampshire, also took third in Worcester. They beat out a field of hundreds of teams from all over New England.

The top-three finishes mean that both teams will head to Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 5 for the national competition.

"It's been a long time since a team from Derry (in football or cheerleading) has gone this far," said Pee Wees coach Glenna Lydick. "I think it's been six or seven years. I heard that a team either qualified or went (to nationals) six or so years ago, but no one I've talked to is sure. It was a long day yesterday, though. It started at 8 a.m. and went on until 9:30 or 10 last night, and we competed in the morning."

The teams, which have been practicing since August, are now scrambling to come up with the money to send their cheerleaders to Florida.

"We know this is a huge financial thing right before Christmas," said Lydick. "It was a very unexpected thing for us. We didn't think they'd do this. To have them do so well was really surprising to us, so we were unprepared (financially). We're looking for local businesses to sponsor or offer financial help for the families that are unable to fully pay. On my squad alone, there are 20 girls going, and it's about $1,000 or $1,500 to go per person. It's a lot of money at Christmastime but everyone's trying to pull together to get these girls to go. Any amount will really help us."

"We're trying to appeal to businesses, because even if they sponsor a girl, even if it's just $275, that covers airfare for a girl," added Fred Gendron, president of the Derry Demons. "Some families are fortunate enough to be able to afford, but some families, with the season, can't. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of these girls, so we're trying to help everyone as much as possible."

While the team holds fundraisers almost year-round, much of that money goes to the Demons organization in general. Sending the teams, which are comprised of girls between 10 and 12, is an added expenditure that the organization just can't afford. As a result, the teams have been out fundraising for the past week, and will be doing so this week as well.

"We have been tagging, which is going to someplace like Dunkin' Donuts and standing outside with a can and they're begging for money, for lack of a better word," said Lydick with a laugh. "Then we'll have to do a lot of fundraising after the fact and then reimburse the parents. They're paying up front so their daughters can live out a dream."

Lydick also noted that any donations to the teams are tax-deductible. But for now, going out and "tagging," as they call it, will have to do.

"If we had more time or the weather was better this week, we could do a family yard sale or something like that," said Dawn Bibeau, the junior midget coach. "In the future we plan on doing a casino night. It's countless hours and a lot of work. I had to take a day out of work today just to get everything booked and be on the phone with all the girls. It's exciting but crazy."

The Pee Wee squad has four coaches and a student coach. In addition to Lydick, Kris Laroche and Krissy McInnes are in charge of the team, along with team mom Dawn Longo. The student coach is 15-year-old Pinkerton sophomore Courtney Laroche, who choreographed all the cheers for the Pee Wee team.

For the Junior Midget team, Bibeau is assisted by Amanda Robbins and Lisa Noonan.

The coaches volunteered between 150 and 200 hours of time each.

There is also another girl going, even if she's not technically on the team. Five-year-old Ashley Gendron is the team's mascot. She attends every practice and game and has also been to every competition.

"Even though she can't compete with us on the floor, she's in the stands cheering," said Lydick.

For more information about sponsoring a team, visit www.derrydemons.com.

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