Eastside Dream Elite, a recreational cheerleading program originally based out of Bellevue, has spent the last 20 years coaching cheer teams and camps to people living on the Eastside, including Mercer Island.
Anne Christiansen was teaching ballroom dance for the Bellevue Parks Department when the department asked her to start a cheer program for kids. Since then, the program has grown, but Christiansen said it’s still mostly run through the Bellevue Parks Department.
“I kind of had my doubts that it would work,” Christiansen said. “We started with a beginning cheer class and 20 people signed up and we had a waiting list. It’s been growing ever since. We’ve expanded over the years and we now have classes all over the Eastside and even in Ballard.”
Since 2006, the program has offered a team for people with developmental disabilities called “Cheerability.” Christiansen said it’s important for everyone to have the opportunity to be physically active and to be part of a team.
“The first day that I went in to practice for that team, a woman came up to me and said, ‘This has been my dream my entire life, thank you for making my dream come true,’ and I was speechless,” Christiansen said. “She’s actually still on the team 13 years later. She’s our captain now.”
Christiansen said it’s a special feeling to help someone follow a lifelong dream.
“Everyone and anyone should have the opportunity to do what they love and what they’re passionate about,” Christiansen said.
The program originally started in Bellevue, but in the past few years they have expanded to Mercer Island, Renton, Kirkland, Issaquah and Ballard.
“We just keep adding where there is a need,” Christiansen said. “We started with 20 kids and now we serve upwards of 200-250 kids each year through our teams and our camps.”
While they do offer a competitive team, Christiansen said Eastside Dream Elite focuses on the community. Christiansen said they don’t require tryouts and the classes are less expensive than most cheer programs because they are offered through the parks department.
Christiansen said they also try to teach kids important leadership skills by letting them become junior coaches and group leaders.