By Jonathan Brannan – BILOXI, MS (WLOX)
The Coast Coliseum was buzzing with activity Saturday. Hundreds of cheerleaders from across South Mississippi were hitting the mats for a cheer competition, but it was more than just a tournament.
This was the second year for the Cheer for Hope Competition to take up residence in Biloxi, but it has been happening in the South for six years now.
It is all in the name of one girl, Hope.
“It was something near and dear to our hearts, and so we actually wanted to do something locally,” said Sean Sutton.
He owns local cheer company Cheer Force One. Sutton heard of Hope’s story and knew he had to help.
Hope spent her childhood as a competitive cheerleader. At 12-years-old, she was diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer that took her life just 194 days later.
Before she died, Hope had a wish. She wanted to help others who were suffering from similar illnesses.
Sutton met with Hope’s family, and the Cheer for Hope Competition was born.
“She’d say this is pretty cool,” said Hope’s dad, Stuart Stout.
According to Stout, he and his family could have never imagined what kind of influence their daughter would have.
“In fact, if you would have told me that this is what the plan was going to be, I would have probably said, ‘Check please. I’m not interested. I can’t do it. We can’t do it,’” said Stout.
What he and his family discovered was quite the opposite.
“Not only could we do it, but God has put us in places that are truly incredible. So, we’re along for the journey, and I think Hope would be very proud of what’s happened in her name,” said Stout.
During Hope’s last days, she raised more than $1 million for her cause. Over the past six years, more than $30,000 have been raised through the cheer competition.
That money goes to help pay expenses for families overwhelmed by medical bills.
Stout says that his desire is to leave a message with those who hear Hope’s story.
“You know, you guys can make a huge difference,” said Stout. “Doesn’t matter what age you are. You can go out and change the world.”
Stout and his wife have written a book titled “Hope’s Wish” that tells Hope’s complete story. Cheer Force One has already scheduled next year’s cheer competition and hopes to make it a tradition for years to come.
To find out more about Hope’s story, visit https://marchforthwithhope.com.
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