Remembering Shauna

Cheerleaders at Esperanza High honor fallen friend, Shauna Stuewe, and raise money for four campus defibrillators.

The Orange County Register


ANAHEIM Those that cheered with Shauna Stuewe say her radiant smile is still etched in their minds. They couldn't let what would have been her "sweet 16" birthday on Friday pass without doing something special in her memory.

So her friends and cheerleaders at Esperanza High School invited Shauna's family to join them near the practice area where she collapsed in 2006.

They wanted to celebrate Shauna. But they also had a purpose in mind to raise funds for automatic heart defibrillators that they hope will prevent similar tragedies.

Fifty cheer and song leaders each did 100 cheer jumps to collect pledge money for the event they called "Jump Start My Heart." Twenty to 30 jumps during a game is typical. One hundred is exhausting.

"This means so much to us," said Lori Stuewe, Shauna's mom. "It shows the love these girls have for Shauna and how she touched their lives."

"And if this can raise enough money to help save the life of a child," Shauna's dad, Kirk, added, "then that means everything."

Shauna, who had survived a cardiac arrest at age 12 during a near drowning and had since cleared all medical exams, collapsed and died during cheer practice on Feb. 15, 2006. Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified district then examined putting defibrillators at its four high schools, including Esperanza.

They determined the cost at $25,000. Defibrillators can help restart a person's heart after cardiac arrest, providing a shock if the machine determines it's needed.

The Yorba Linda Sunrise Rotary pledged half. Shauna's friends set out to raise the other $12,500. Friday they gathered near a plaque dedicated to Shauna, each wearing a teal shirt her favorite color. Van Halen's "Jump" blared over the loud speaker. And so they did, kicking their legs to each side, touching hands to feet, each jump raising pledge money.

When they finished 50 jumps, coach Stacy Shube stopped the music. She cautioned them not to push their limits, reassuring them they could sit out if too tired.

Not one girl stopped. Julia Yamaguchi, a cheer captain and Shauna's best friend, ripped off her knee brace for the second half. And along with four friends, she did jumps 51-55 as back flips.

"This would have been a really difficult day, knowing it's Shauna's birthday," Yamaguchi said after her 100th jump. "But for all of us to be together here for Shauna, there are no words. It's overwhelming."

As the music stopped, an updated count of money raised came in: $12,800.

"When we started, I thought maybe $1,000," Shube said. "This speaks to the girls and the whole community helping Esperanza and three other schools." Additional funds would go toward putting defibrillators in district junior highs in the future.

Kirk Stuewe's voice broke with emotion as he addressed the cheerleaders afterward. "We thank God for turning something so tragic into something this beautiful," he said.

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This page last updated 10/16/2007