About 1,000 cheerleaders stretched over a half-mile along Fairfield Road in Layton on Saturday waiting to pay tribute to a member of the cheerleading family.
Cheerleading squads of all different levels came to show support to the family and friends of Macie Anne Hill, an 8-year-old cheerleader who died after an accident in a parade on the 4th of July. She was taken to a hospital in critical condition after the accident occurred at 175 S. Main in Kaysville. She later died from her injuries.
A group of cheerleaders from Mac’s All Star Cheer in Layton, a sister cheer organization to the Farmington organization Macie was involved in, were teary-eyed after the procession as they talked about how this tragedy has impacted them.
They said it was amazing to be a part of the long line of cheerleaders, and it felt like they are part of a large family.
"We're all here for each other, regardless of whether or not we compete against each other at competitions. We all love each other regardless of where we cheer, who we cheer for, what level we are (or) how old we are," Londyn Isbell said.
Isbell, 17, is a cheerleader in the Mac’s program, but is also a coach. She said her students are around the same age as Macy.
"Not only are they like my kids, because I coach them, but they're all like our little sisters and they all look up to us, so it’s really crazy that it happened to somebody this young. And it's one big happy family, so the fact that it happened to one of us is really devastating," Isbell said.
Inviting the cheerleaders
Jill Schofield, a cheer coach at Fremont High School, said one of her student’s moms reached out to organize the event because the mom wanted to do something to help. Schofield said she has seen the cheer community gather together multiple times when cheerleaders died or were involved in accidents. She said things like this are somber and special, and will be something the cheerleaders never forget.
“There’s not a coach on the planet that signs up for helping, you know, 30 plus teammates, kids, to navigate the death of a teammate. Nobody signs up for that and nobody teaches you that. There is no manual,” Schofield said. “But one of the best things that the kids, well any of us, can do is to serve, or to love, or to support.”
She hopes this demonstration helps Macie's family see they are loved, and see that there are others who have experienced similar tragedies cheering them on from the sidelines.
Schofield said it just takes a small gesture to show that someone cares.
She said the news of the tragedy spread quickly through her cheer squad, and people wanted to help. They had so much response to an initial flyer inviting people to join that they changed the location to allow for more people to be lining the street. The cheerleaders wanted to do something to help a fellow member of the cheer community.
"There's something special about the heart of a cheerleader. I mean everybody has cheerleaders in their lives — their parents, their friends, their neighbors. ... Not cheerleaders that wear skirts just cheerleaders that have good hearts," Schofield said.
Affect on the cheer community
Jalyn Linkletter and Sierra Tracy, cheer coaches for Mac's All Star in Draper said the cheerleading community is very strong, and that it was humbling to see all of the support from so many cheerleaders on Saturday.
"It was really devastating to hear the news ... we have so many 8-year-olds in our program, it could have been one of ours. So, it hit really close to home," Tracy said.
Tracy said teaching cheer is everything to her, she has been doing it for about nine years and the kids in her squad are like her own kids.
Linkletter said this tragedy was very relatable for the families, coaches and kids. They heard about the support event on Wednesday and received a lot of a response from their girls and moms who wanted to come. She said they organized carpooling and about 100 of their girls came from all over Salt Lake Valley.
Many groups lifted their arms up in a salute as the funeral procession passed by.
A funeral for Macie was held at a Kaysville stake center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday afternoon. Girls in their cheerleading outfits and bows from Macie's squad and their families filled many of the front rows at the funeral.
Macie's grandparents, an aunt, and her father spoke at the funeral about Macie’s unique personality and how she completed their family, following three older brothers. They also spoke about how their faith and support from the community are helping them during a difficult time.
Her dad, Mark Hill, spoke about how Macie would wake them up by doing cartwheels and backhand springs in their room after bursting the door open. He said cheer is where Macie's heart was.
He said support from the community, the world, and those who were close to him has been overwhelming.
"I am eternally grateful," he said.
He said his daughter always wanted to be first, and now, she is the first to heaven.
Donny Osmond, who was introduced as Macie’s friend, sang "To Where You Are" at the funeral. He explained he met Macie when her and an older brother brought him a trophy after he got second place as the peacock on "The Masked Singer," TV show.
"I left like a winner, when you gave that to me, and I thought how appropriate is that thought for this moment because we are all winners in our Heavenly Father’s plan of life … we are all winners and we can return to him,” Osmond said.