"Never, ever, in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would become a cheerleader," says Mary Ann McCormick, a retired kindergarten teacher from Linthicum, Md.
But Mary Ann's mindset changed three years ago when she moved to Charlestown, an Erickson Senior Living community in Catonsville, Maryland. That’s where she joined the Charlestown Cheers, an enthusiastic group of residents who cheer for their neighbors at events on and off the community's campus.
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“I was looking for something to get involved in and I thought it sounded like fun,” says Mary Ann. “I’ve never been a cheerleader before, but I have cheered people on all my life in various ways, and I thought this would be really cool to do. After we got our pom-poms, I was really hooked.”
Resident Connie Andrews, who moved to Charlestown from Canton, Md., in 2016, organized the group after watching the movie Poms, starring Diane Keaton. The comedy follows Keaton after she moves from New York to a retirement community in Georgia, where she meets a group of spirited women and starts a cheerleading club.
“They showed the movie here in the auditorium on a Saturday night and everybody fell in love with the idea,” says Connie. “Some of us joked and said, ‘Gee, we ought to do that.’ So, I thought, well, let’s give it a try!”
Not knowing what to expect, Connie put flyers up throughout the community. Thirty residents signed up for the first meeting—Mary Ann was at the top of the list. All thirty residents attended the meeting, and they were eager to get started.
“At the first meeting, Connie really made everyone feel welcome and like we had a part in the planning,” says Mary Ann.
Practice Makes Perfect
Then, when the pandemic hit, Connie got creative: “I started researching cheers online and distributed them to everyone so they could practice them at home. That way, when we all got back together, we could hit the ground running.”
The group has three goals, according to Connie. “We wanted to build enthusiasm at softball, bocce, and cornhole games and events like our Staff Appreciation Fund celebration and our Winter Putterland fundraiser. We also wanted to walk in the Catonsville Fourth of July parade and support our fellow Charlestown residents by performing at Wilton Overlook, our continuing care neighborhood.”
In order to achieve those goals, Connie collaborates with Charlestown’s staff to decide at which events the squad will perform. Then the Charlestown Cheers meet monthly, leading up to each event, to practice.
Their very first performance was at the Fourth of July parade in downtown Catonsville in 2021, where they took home the Spirit Award.
“People couldn’t believe that there was this group of ladies there cheering away. Just seeing us made people smile,” says Dawn Strumsky, a member of the Charlestown Cheers squad. “We just want to brighten people’s days. Connie has such positive energy and is such a happy person in general. She’s just a wonderful, feel-good person. It should really be called Connie’s Charlestown Cheers.”
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Former Baltimore Colts cheerleader Kathy Appel thought her days of cheering were long behind her … until she moved to Charlestown from Bethany Beach, Del., with her husband Ed in 2020. Soon after their move, the Charlestown Cheers squad enthusiastically appeared at a cornhole tournament they attended.
“I got so excited. I said, ‘We have cheerleaders? I want to be a cheerleader!’” says Kathy, who made multiple appearances during the Baltimore Colts’ 1970 and ’71 seasons. “So, I joined the group and marched in the Fourth of July parade. It was awesome!”
The Charlestown Cheers is open to all Charlestown residents—no athletic ability or special skills are required.
“Anybody can cheer. All you need is enthusiasm,” says Mary Ann. “When people see us, they smile, and many times, they will cheer along with us.”
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“I’ve formed so many new friendships through the cheer group,” adds Mary Ann. “It’s a great way to meet people.”
Charlestown Cheers is just one of the 300-plus resident-run clubs and groups offered on campus. Because all of Charlestown’s apartment homes are maintenance-free, residents have more free time to fill their schedules with activities like yoga classes, art lessons, gardening, fishing, college courses, poker games, and book club meetings—all within the community’s 110-acre campus.
“One of the reasons we moved to Charlestown was because there are so many things to get involved in—and I don’t have to get in the car and drive anywhere to participate,” says Kathy.
Connie says she enjoys seeing the reactions of people when they watch the squad cheer.
“It’s a great group!” says Connie. “We have one woman in the group who is 94 and she has a ton of energy. We all have a great time together, and heaven knows we laugh a lot!”
To learn more about the variety of activities and vibrant, maintenance-free lifestyle at Charlestown Senior Living, request a brochure today.