Sioux Falls, SD
Members of the Dakota Spirit cheer and dance squads are honoring the memory of their fallen teammate. Six-year-old Alivia Coon was one of three children killed in a Sioux Falls house fire this past weekend.
Alivia had her first practice with Dakota Spirit in September. She showed great promise as a "flyer," a cheerleader who is lifted into the air by her teammates. Now those same teammates are providing a lift to Alivia's family.
"Alivia had a beautiful sparkle in her eye, love to be here. She was one of the youngest team members, so the other older kids just really embraced her," Dakota Spirit Founder Robin Fritsch said.
Alivia, described as a natural-born cheerleader, lost her life along with 12-year-old Savannah Coon and 16-year-old Michael Hensley when fire raced through the second floor of their north Sioux Falls home on Saturday.
"We're in the business of helping kids and working with kids, we do a lot of community service, but we've always done it for others and to be reaching out to one of our own families is especially sorrowful at this time," Fritsch said.
Dakota Spirit members will sell hundreds of memory bows at their Valentine's Classic early next year. The bows will be purple.
"Purple was Alivia's favorite color," Fritsch said.
Dakota Spirit has heard from gyms all across the country expressing their condolences over the death of Alivia.
"It's a very close-knit community, the cheerleading world is and just an outpouring of love and concern and what can we do," Fritsch said.
In the coming weeks, Dakota Spirit cheerleaders will practice and compete with heavy hearts, striving to rise above tragedy and keeping Alivia always in their thoughts.
"It's not about what we do out on the floor, or what we do for one another, it's what we do to lift each other up each and every day and certainly our families have come together to lift this family now and we know that one day we'll see her again," Fritsch said.
Dakota Spirit has set up a fund to benefit Alivia's family. You can make a donation at all Sioux Falls First Bank & Trust branches. Donations are also being accepted at Celebrate Church in Sioux Falls.