EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)- From the Sun City to the Big Apple, one local cheer team is competing against dozens of other top athletes landing a spot in one of the longest-running and most-beloved televised parades in the country.

KTSM 9 News Anchor, Brenda Medina got an exclusive look into how the team is preparing to represent the Borderland in New York City.

A lot of passion coming from the young group of cheerleaders from Cheer Force athletics or CFA. They spend countless hours perfecting their routine and don’t think their limited space gym holds them back from competing against the top cheer teams.

“It’s nine mats to be able to do a performance. We are a tiny little gym that only works off four mats. So, we call ourselves the underdog,” said Esther Melendez, CFA owner and coach.

The team recently attended the UTEP Cheerleading Championship and pulled off what they thought was an out of reach victory, taking top honors as the grand champions!

Forget the bragging rights, this win came with the opportunity of a lifetime. An invitation to join the UTEP cheer team at the 95th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.

“We are super excited because it’s something not just big for us but for El Paso, to be able to put El Paso on the map that way,” Melendez added.

The road to march down the streets of NYC didn’t come easy though, Melendez was blindsided with some unexpected news during the pandemic. “I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. So, I had to go through chemotherapy, radiation.”  The diagnosis forced her to take a backseat. 

“For many months, 6 to 8 months I was not at the gym and so these athletes had to get closer. Coach themselves, work by themselves together and they did. They came through, they worked hard,” Melendez said as she recalled her journey to recovery.

“It was one of the worst things that anyone could have gone through,” said CFA cheer captain, Alexa Candelaria. “So, when we came back, and we decided to do this season we all decided this is dedicated to coach.”

Coach couldn’t stay away too long though, telling KTSM it was her team that pushed her to get better. “So bald, no eyebrows, no eyelashes and all I would come in and work with the kids,” Melendez added. “I had to fight for them. I knew they were here struggling without a coach, and I said I had to get better so I can get back to them.” 

“Being a win that big. That huge, the year that coach finally got better, it really was her. I think it was a blessing from God because we went through a lot,” said Candelaria. So, I think it was Him giving back to us.”

The 6-year undefeated champions say being a part of CFA is more than just competing and racking up the trophies. “It’s been like home. Everyone here is a family,” describes CFA cheer captain, Cassandra Melendez. “Everyone gets along with each other. We always laugh.” 

“Being a part of CFA is pretty much life changing,” added Candelaria. “You feel the energy in here no matter what type of day you are having.” 

The cost to take part in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is $3,500 per cheerleader. That includes travel costs, parade entry and uniforms among a number of other things.

CFA is asking the community to help them put the Borderland on the nationwide big screen. They will be holding fundraisers and have also set up a gofundme account. You can donate here .

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