November 18, 2017
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  • The 100-lbs Panthers, Andover Apaches and Panthers 10U cheerleaders joined together to create a special day for Ashley Hackmann, a Panthers cheerleader who is currently battling leukemia.
    Photo courtesy of Jaime McFarland
    The 100-lbs Panthers, Andover Apaches and Panthers 10U cheerleaders joined together to create a special day for Ashley Hackmann, a Panthers cheerleader who is currently battling leukemia.
  • Hackmann was given a tiara and sash at the Panthers' homecoming celebration, and she gave a speech to everyone in attendance thanking them for their support.
    Photo courtesy of Jaime McFarland
    Hackmann was given a tiara and sash at the Panthers' homecoming celebration, and she gave a speech to everyone in attendance thanking them for their support.

Football Organizations Unite To Support Cheerleader In Cancer Fight

Colin Murphy
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October 16, 2017

Sports have a way of unifying, and Pasadena has a way of rallying to support its own.

Those truths converged on September 30 when Panthers and Andover Apaches football teams and families joined together to support Pasadena resident Ashley Hackmann, 10, a Panthers cheerleader who is battling leukemia.

Hackman was diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of this year, and in the course of treatment has had to forego her normal activities such as school and cheerleading.

Knowing Hackmann’s ongoing fight, the Panthers 100-lbs football team decided to try to bring some light into her life by dedicating their game day fully to her.

“It was two communities that came together and decided to make this day special for her,” said Panthers coach Ryan Herzberger.

Players from both the Panthers and Apaches tied orange ribbons to their shoes — September is Leukemia Awareness Month, and orange is the dedicated color — and received talks from their coaches about leukemia and what Hackmann is going through. Members of both organizations arrived at Andover Field with signs showing their support for her. Prior to the start of the game, the Panthers and Apaches lined up one by one, each approaching Hackmann and giving her an orange rose. The 100-lbs Panthers, many of whom were classmates of Hackmann’s at Fort Smallwood Elementary School, made her their honorary captain for the game, and she joined the team in their cheer of “One team, one unit, one heartbeat.” She went out with the players for the pregame coin toss, and members of both organizations formed a tunnel for her to walk through as she came back from midfield.

That afternoon, Hackmann was honored at Panthers Homecoming at Loopers Field. She was given an orange homecoming sash and a tiara and invited onstage to be a part of homecoming festivities.

Once onstage, Hackmann took the microphone and read a speech thanking everyone for supporting her and wearing orange, and saying that since she is currently unable to go to school, it’s important to her to be a part of the Panthers.

“It made me feel special and that people really cared about me,” Hackmann said.

Lisa Elliott, Panthers Athletic Club cheerleading director, noted how positive Hackmann has been, saying she can be seen at Panthers practices wearing a T-shirt that lightheartedly reads, “Does my T-shirt make me look bald?”

“Her smile lights up the whole field,” said Elliott. “She’s just super positive.”

Herzberger noted that the Panthers are glad to support one of their own and that the Apaches were wonderful in joining together with them.

“Once you’re a Panther, you never stand alone,” said Herzberger. “That is one of our sayings and it held true that day for Ashley. Ashley is part of our team now.”

Hackmann’s mother, Shannon Hackmann, thanked the football organizations and everyone who put in effort to make the day special for her daughter.

“Ashley’s been through so much this year that being a part of the Panthers has been extra meaningful for her,” she said. “They have been so understanding of her limitations and supportive of her involvement. They went above and beyond during homecoming. We were so touched at the unbelievable show of love, support and compassion for Ashley. It was truly an uplifting and amazing experience. We are grateful to be a part of such a great organization and community.”

Elliott noted that even the youngest football players and cheerleaders understood and processed that one of their own is going through a struggle and that everyone can do their part to express support.

“To see [everyone] understand what she’s going through and appreciate that and honor her the way they did, it was something to be proud of,” said Elliot, “and we’re going to keep things going for her.”


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