In a first for a local school and possibly the region, a Medford cheerleader will represent the Rogue Valley when she performs in an international New Year's parade on Tuesday.
South Medford High cheerleader Jessica Lewis spent most of her summer and fall rallying local businesses and soliciting donations to earn nearly $6,000 needed to travel to London for the parade.
Selected among the top 15 percent from more than 1,000 cheerleaders at a summer camp in California this year, Lewis was one of a few hundred cheerleaders in the United States invited to cheer for the New Year's Day event in London.
With funding in place thanks to business sponsors, individual donors and various fundraising efforts, Lewis left Wednesday from Rogue Valley airport with her mother, Angie Gonsalez.
Lewis needed to raise $6,000 — $3,000 for herself and $3,000 for her mother — in time to get to London for parade routine practice with hundreds of other cheerleaders from around the world.
Friends and family say, in addition to being the first known local cheerleader to attend the event, the South senior might have set some records for the number of car washes held for a single fundraising purpose.
South High School cheerleading coach Loni Strong said Lewis had more determination than most and received plenty of support from the community.
"The community has been super-supportive. Umpqua Bank let her use their parking lot day after day after day," Strong said.
"I know the last thousand dollars was super-difficult but Jessica didn't give up. She's a really determined, hard-working young lady. That's not so easy to find nowadays."
Strong said, for her trek to London, Lewis had to learn cheer routines via video and that teammates from the school's cheer squad rearranged practice schedule for a competition that will occur within 24 hours of Lewis returning from London.
"We're competing Jan. 5 at Eagle Point and the whole team is waiting for her," Strong said.
"They could have used an alternate but they didn't want her to miss out or be punished because she was able to make her goal to go to London. We're all just so proud of her. Her whole team is very supportive."
In an e-mail to the Mail Tribune, Lewis said her trip will include tours to London tourist attractions such as Buckingham Palace and St. Paul's Cathedral.
"It is very beautiful and (we) are so grateful for everyone who helped out even in the slightest," she wrote.
"This is probably the biggest thing to ever happen to me and I couldn't be any more appreciative."
In addition to earning the distinction of All-American, and being invited to London, Lewis was selected to serve on the cheer camp staff at the University of California Davis this summer, following her graduation from South.
The New Year's parade won't air on television in the U.S. but can be viewed online, along with photos and information about the event. See http://varsity.com.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at email@example.com.