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CHS cheerleaders flock in Claremont

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

In Mrs. Doubtfire, the 1993 film starring the late, great Robin Williams, he said, “It was a run-by fruiting,” after chucking a lime at Pierce Brosnan’s smarmy character, thereby adding “fruiting” to the lexicon.

Claremont High School cheerleaders may heretofore be credited for a similarly unlikely addition: “flocking.”

As in, “there was a flocking last night on Eighth Street.”

CHS’s cheerleaders and their families have been taking part in a playful bit of vandalism lately, whereby unsuspecting Claremont families awake to find a “flock” of pink flamingos in their front yards. The plastic birds began showing up around town in August, when the CHS Pep Boosters kicked off the fundraiser.

It works like this: folks who want to support the pep squads call or email to place orders for “flocks”—25 for $25, or 50 for $40—to be surreptitiously placed on someone’s lawn. A cheerleader and her family then take to the streets under the cover of darkness, remove the birds from the previous night’s victim, disinfect them with Lysol, and then make their way to their next nesting site. The cheerleaders are also offering a “spooky flock,” made up of half flamingos and half skeletons, through the end of October.

It takes between 10 and 20 minutes to install the flamingos, depending on the size of the flock.

Think of this good-natured prank as a 2020 version of that time-honored tradition of “TP-ing” or toilet-papering a house, only without the mess.

To date, 172 families have been victims of the “flocking” squad.

“I think this year was the perfect opportunity for us to give it a try with the circumstances of Covid and whatnot,” said booster club vice president Pam Batista. “It’s been a great fundraiser because people can remotely visit their friends, provide joy and surprise them. People really have been very thrilled.”

And at $25 and $40 per flocking and relatively no post-startup overhead, the fundraiser has been an overwhelming success.

Victims have even been “flocking it forward,” Ms. Batista said. “You have a lot of, ‘You got me, now I’m gonna’ get you.’”

The best case scenario involves a completely undetected installation.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at it,” Ms. Batista said. “If we don’t get caught placing them the night before, then people are surprised and wake up to them in the morning.”

As one might imagine, sneaking around someone’s front yard at night hasn’t always gone smoothly.

“There have been little things like you know, gate codes that we don’t get and other things like families who are up late and maybe go on a bike ride, and we show up and the garage is open and the lights are all so, so we just kind of have to leave and come back. It’s kind of funny.

“One of the funniest flocking events was arriving while the sprinklers were on. We ended up soaked and the homeowner sent me a Ring video of us attempting to avoid the sprinkler sprays!”

With Claremont schools going remote this year and all campuses closed, it’s a tough time for  students, teachers and administrators. The flamingo fundraiser has helped bring some light to the otherwise gloomy uncertainty.

“Not only is a good fundraiser, I think it’s just been good for families, not only those who we’re flocking, but for the cheer families themselves,” Ms. Batista said. “Because there’s not much that you can do outside of your house. So if you get to go out when you sign up to take a flock, and they pick one up and flock a house, it’s fun for them. It’s good time they get to spend doing something. And you know, it’s not like they’re going to be able to go out to a football game, so this way they have a little activity that they can do safely. So that’s been fun for our girls.”

Ms. Batista’s older daughter Aly is in her junior year at CHS and is a varsity cheerleader. Her younger daughter Sophia is in eighth grade and is on El Roble Intermediate School’s “Song-Pom” squad.

It’s a family tradition, as Ms. Batista was a three-year varsity cheerleader at Bishop Amat High from 1989 to 1991.

“We’ll be involved here for a while,” Ms. Batista said. “I think it’s good for the kids. It’s good to keep them connected. They form good friendships. The friendship bonds are strong. And I know it’s something that the kids have been missing. They have Zoom practices, but it’s not the same.”

The flamingo fundraiser has helped bring some fun to the squads and their families, Ms. Batista said.

“I’ve had so many messages from people who are just overjoyed, kids who are overjoyed at homes where they are,” she said. “It’s really cute to hear. It’s very uplifting.”

More information about the flamingo fundraiser, and CHS cheer in general, is available on the booster club Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/chswolfpack_cheer.

To order a flocking call (909) 282-2998 or email claremonthighcheer@gmail.com.

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