Project CheerUP! was founded in 2020 during the Covid-19 Pandemic -in response to the global quarantine and complete shut-down of the sport of Cheerleading. Our four founders, Ava Cassilli, Sofia Cordaro, Mackenzie Jennings and Alessia Velazquez, were 15 year old New Jersey high school cheerleaders who stayed true to their mission to Cheer UP andCheer ON during this crisis. In only 5 months spread this “spirit movement” nationally – invigorating and uniting cheerleaders of all ages – to try to “CheerUP! The World”.
By realizing that some days you have to create your own “sparkle” and “shine”, these four girls spread joy throughout the United States. Starting out by creating personalized video “Cheer Grams” the “CheerUP! Squad” sent out hundreds of grams to healthcare staff, first responders, essential workers, nursing homes, and just about anyone who needed to be “cheered up”. These cheerleaders were also able to facilitate additional philanthropic events such as CheerUP! parades for local heros and use their social media following to help support local businesses. On May 10, 2020 at 10pm, Project CheerUP! Cheerleaders pulled off an inaugural event called “CheerUP! The Nite Crew”where 9 teams from all over NJ gathered at the same exact time to surprise hospital healthcare workers on the overnight shifts with baskets of necessities and goodies for them to enjoy. These unity events inspired the hashtags #LeadersWhoCheer, #CheerForGood and #CheerleadersUnited.
Featured on local news stations and “LIVE with Kelly and Ryan”, Project CheerUP!, LLC Inc has now evolved into a non-profit organization with participating cheerleaders – from all over the United States. The mission is to spread ‘cheer unity’ and positivity across the nation, and one day, around the world. By combining a group of diverse cheerleaders, sponsors and supporters, we are committed to cheering humanity on, until the game is over and the last player has left the field.
From top to bottom: Ava Cassilli, Sofia Cordaro, Mackenzie Jennings and Alessia Velazquez
THERESE CORDARO, BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Mom of Founder, Sofia Cordaro, Therese is a Senior Director, Sourcing Governance- Management consultant for vendors and large scale project/initiatives at Prudential. She excels at consultative functions as it relates to strategy of Project CheerUP! and is an expert in subject matter such as Budgets, Governance and Risk. Therese was a Cheer Coach for eight years and is serving three years on the Board of her hometown Junior Football/Cheer League. Therese is Project CheerUp!’s number one cheerleader.
LISA CASSILLI, BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Mom of Founder Ava, Lisa is a licensed Professional Counselor, Anti-Bullying Specialist, and Approved Clinical Supervisor. Expert on school programming and procedures, as well as child/adolescent development and family systems. Experienced cheer coach and community liaison for several communities. Motto: “Project CheerUP! gives me life!”
GAETANA VELAZQUEZ, BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mom of Founder Alessia, Gaetana is a Human Resources Professional with extensive experience in customer service, recruiting, benefits and administrative support. Proven team leader with excellent communication and negotiation skills. Able to create rapport and credibility with diverse groups. Most importantly proud mom of Two Beautiful Girls. Gaetana is the glue that holds Project CheerUP! together.
ANDI JENNINGS, BOARD OF DIRECTORS / EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
With extensive, strategic brand management experience, award-winning design skills and creative direction expertise, Andi has moved her focus from advertising to philanthropy. She serves as a Brand Ambassador for The JustinTime Foundation, the Managing Director for The George Miller Art Society and most recently the Executive Director for Project CheerUP! Project CheerUP! was conceived by her daughter – Founder, Mackenzie Jennings and friends – and it is the greatest honor to be able to continue this movement in her name for years to come. Kenzie-girl, let’s #CheerUP!theWorld!
Michele Cusimano-Stirone, Director of Programs
Michele Cusimano-Stirone is the owner, Director and founder of Meadowlands Starz Cheer and most recently appointed as the Director of Programs for Project CheerUP!She has a combined 30 years of cheer experience from cheering herself, to owning a competition cheer company (Ultimate Cheer & Dance) & coaching. Michele has coached athletes in all areas of cheerleading from catholic schools, recreation, and competitive cheerleading. She has been heavily involved in the youth in her community for over 15 years. In 2014, she completed a year of service as Mayoral appointed position Recreation Director in her community. Michele has always focused on making a difference in the lives of the athletes that attend the Meadowlands Starz program for the past 7 years and intends to keep finding the best ways to help the athletes grow to the best of their availability. (one more sentence to come)