Two South Sound teens are spreading some international cheer and ringing in 2011 in a big way.
Olympia High School senior Maeve Kelley is among about 100 dancers from throughout the United States selected to perform in various New Year’s celebrations in Rome this week, and River Ridge High School junior Valerie Coats is set to march with more than 1,000 of the country’s top cheerleaders in the London New Year’s Day Parade.
“I told her this is the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Coats’ mom, Rhonda, of Lacey.
The All American programs are run by the Universal Dance Association, the Universal Cheerleaders Association and the United Spirit Association. Both girls were responsible for raising nearly $3,000 for their weeklong trips, which included airfare, lodging and an array of sightseeing excursions and performances.
Kelley began dancing at age 3 and competed in Irish dancing for many years. Her group was scheduled to tour the Vatican, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and Florence, among other sites.
Rome traditionally hosts several big events to mark the New Year, including an annual blessing by the pope, which attracts thousands to the city.
“It’s the best trip I’ve been on in my whole life, and I won’t forget the experience,” Kelley said in a telephone interview from her hotel room in Italy. “ Everybody’s been treating us like we’re famous people. People are just randomly taking our picture.”
Coats’ group was scheduled to visit Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the Windsor Castle. She couldn’t be reached for an interview.
Each year, more than a half-million people pack the streets of London to view the New Year’s Day parade, which weaves along a two mile route and features more than 10,000 performers from 20 countries.
Both girls were selected for the All American teams during cheer and dance camps last summer.
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org