Cheering for a cause: Butler, cheer clinic impact local gym, charity


In the world of competitive cheerleading, Gabi Butler’s name is synonymous with world-class ability.

The 21-year-old’s long résumé includes two world gold championships and a collegiate grand national title, but during the summers, she goes across the country working with youth programs.

On Friday, Butler and her crew stopped by Gymnastics Lane in Seymour to work with the Synergy Athletics All-Stars.

While the cheerleaders in attendance had the opportunity to work with top-level talents, the girls also gave back to a bigger cause.

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In the weeks leading up to the clinic, the girls on the team raised money for Megan’s Wish and Great Strides. Megan’s Wish is a local organization that contributes to organizations looking to cure cystic fibrosis.

Megan Cravens, a former Synergy cheerleader and Seymour native, and her family have raised money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for years.

Cravens, who currently cheers at Indiana State University, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth. She was born with an extended stomach and had small blockages in her intestines.

The genetic disease, which progressively limits a person’s ability to breathe, is rare with about 30,000 Americans having it. There is no cure, and the median predicted survival age is 41, but that has increased as more therapies and medications are developed.

While Synergy coach Lydia Maupin was already interested in bringing Butler in to work with her girls, she was sold on the clinic when she found out that it would also function as a fundraiser.

"Megan Cravens was a cheerleader here for four years," Maupin said. "She started at Synergy when we opened the gym seven years ago. She has been a special athlete of mine and has held a special place in my heart. When we found out that Gabi could come to the gym and that she not only does a fundraiser for athletes but also partners with local organizations, there was no question that we wanted to partner with Megan’s Wish."

There were incentives for raising the most money leading up to the clinic.

Those who brought in the most money were afforded special opportunities with Butler, including private sessions, eating lunch together, touring the traveling RV and going on Instagram Live with Gabi and her 525,000 followers.

While Butler has done clinics for the past eight years, including around 50 stops in 2019, she said the format of the sessions recently changed.

"I wanted to come to Seymour for the fundraiser," Butler said. "I love that we are doing clinics this way this year. It used to be that you’d pay at the door and then leave. This year, I really wanted to make it special by doing fundraisers so that way, while we are doing the clinics, we can also give back to people who need it."

Synergy raised $5,015 with Ellie Jones ($2,028), Britynn Dunham-Henry ($1,337) and Savannah Stoffregen ($750) leading the way.

"It feels like a one-of-a-kind experience," Jones, 10, said. "They’re world champions. You don’t get to see that very often."

During the three-hour clinic, which had kids ages 3 to 17 in attendance, Butler and her staff worked on a variety of skills.

"The main thing, for me, is technique," Butler said. "I am very, very old school. I love when kids can show me a really pretty pass rather than a difficult one with bad technique. Overall, that’s the best way you’re going to improve."

Many of the kids asked Butler to work on technique for specific skills.

"I’ve been working on my tucks," Dunham-Henry, 9, said. "I want to keep getting better. I’ve had a lot of fun today."

Stoffregen, 12, said it was a special experience.

"It’s awesome that we get to work with people that have worked hard and accomplished so much," she said. "I feel like they can help us because they used to be like us. They know what we’re doing wrong and can help fix it."

Butler enjoyed working with the girls from Synergy. 

"They were amazing," she said. "They listened to everything we were saying and were full of life. It was an honor to come in and coach them today. These kids were a special, special group."

Maupin said the combination of fundraising and working on skills made for a great experience.

"Gabi is one of the most well-known cheerleaders in the industry," she said. "To have someone like her bring in athletes that can do the best tumbling and stunting in the world is such an opportunity. We don’t have athletes like this at our disposal. Everyone in the cheerleading world knows who she is, so it’s a really cool opportunity."

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