University cheerleader raises money to help friend
Jan 20, 2013 (Greeley Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
University high school's colors are blue and white, but for one cheerleader who just wouldn't give up, her shoes are a grassy-shade of green.
Kirsten Bruning and Brooklynn Pena have come a long way since elementary school when they first exchanged giggles.
Kirsten and Brooklynn, both sophomores at University high school, became friends in first grade, when they both attended Heiman Elementary School in Evans.
Unfortunately, the next year, Kirsten, 16, transferred across town to University and the two lost touch almost as quickly as they found it.
"We never saw each other again," Kirsten said about the move, "until she came here. But we knew who we were right away."
That was in seventh grade, when Brooklynn also made the switch to the west Greeley charter school.
During the last few years, they have reconnected and become such good friends that the giggles and chatter mean much more. But it wasn't until last summer that Kirsten showed Brooklynn just what true friends will do for each other.
Along with the rest of the University Bulldogs cheerleaders, the two attended a cheer camp in June where they had a chance to become All-Americans. Five of the girls from UH were selected based on their ability, showmanship and character: Kirsten and Brooklynn, along with Breanna Lozoya, Lizzie Pryzgoda and Katelyn Shovlin.
Once chosen, the girls had the opportunity to dance with 400 others from across the country alongside country music recording artist Dierks Bentley in the Capital One Bowl Venture Card Halftime Show on Jan. 1.
But the invitation also came with a $1,200 bill to pay for the hotel stay, day passes to Universal Studios and Disney World, meals and other incidentals. It didn't include airfare.
"I told her there was no way I could go," Brooklynn said, adding her family just didn't have the financial ability to send her.
Kirsten wouldn't take no for an answer. She was determined to take her friend, who had never flown before, despite learning from her parents that she already had to fund her own trip.
"We told her we would go if she could raise the money," Kirsten's mom Kathy Bruning said, adding it seemed to fuel her daughter to prove she could do it.
Kirsten sent out letters to her friends and family asking for donations for her part so she could focus on Brooklynn.
"She just told me one day, 'I'm mowing lawns for you,' " Brooklynn said with a laugh.
From June to October, Kirsten mowed lawns every Saturday to raise the $1,200 Brooklynn needed for the trip. Brooklynn's dad paid for the airplane ticket.
"I think my shoes are permanently green," Kirsten said with a laugh. "It wasn't that hard, and it got easier."
Brooklynn said she was overwhelmed by the idea.
"If you think about it, she really didn't have to do this," Brooklynn said. "But she wouldn't take no."
Kathy said it was a trait she knew her daughter had but had never seen it in action quite like this. That's why when Kirsten first came to her with the idea, she wasn't going to tell her she didn't think she could raise that kind of money by herself.
"I'm really proud of her," Kathy said. "She had a goal, and she set her sights on it, and actually accomplished it. It meant more for her to go with her friend."
Kirsten doesn't believe it was that big of a deal. She said she wanted to go with Brooklynn and that's that.
"I was really happy to do the fundraising," she said. "I just wanted to make sure my friend could go."
Sherrie Peif covers education for The Tribune. Her column runs on Mondays. If you have an idea for a feature, contact Sherrie at (970) 392-5632 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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