Being a Colts cheerleader was a dream Katie had for years.
“I have seen so many cheerleaders of the week and now, I am the Cheerleader of the Week.”
And she’s looking forward to using the opportunity to make an impact. That’s what Colts Cheer Director Kelly Tilley challenged Katie and her teammates to do this season.
“It wasn’t a competition, it was, ‘Let’s come together and find something that we’re all passionate about.’ I was really excited, but kind of nervous,” she said.
She thought about it and came up with something near and dear to her.
“Something in my mind just sparked children. I really wanted to help kids who don’t have a lot. I really wanted to help children with school supplies to start the school year off on the right foot.”
For Katie, it’s personal.
“I never really had the new shoes or the new, cool school supplies that the other kids were getting. In hindsight, it kind of impacted me at school,” she said. “You go to school, you have those school supplies and that’s all you bring to the table. That’s all the kids see of you.”
She wants to help even the playing field for underprivileged kids.
“They open up their new book bag and, ‘Oh my gosh, I have a new folder, new crayons I haven’t used.’ I don’t know about you, but I still open up a new box of crayons and it’s like opening up a treasure chest,” she laughed.
And teaming up with her cheer sisters would turn it into something even bigger.
“That experience is something you can’t really buy somebody,” she said. “To make sure those children know that they are enough, they are worth it.”
It’s something she still has to remind herself.
“I had a very hard childhood. I was very bullied. It still affects me today,” she said. “I felt worthless. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I got made fun of for my weight. I was chunky. I didn’t know I was chunky until they told me and made fun of me for it. It was horrific. I started seeing myself for what they were saying and when I would look in the mirror, all I could hear were their comments. It was tough.”
But she was tougher.
She struggled with a learning disability, but still graduated with honors. And when dance came into her life, it helped her build confidence.
“Dance was the one thing I had that I felt like I was good at. I was like, ‘This is something I understand. This is something that I can do.’ It was something I could grasp that actually made sense. It has helped me a lot through life.”
Dance got Katie through school and all the way to the NFL.
Now, she has a voice. She has a platform. And she wants to use it to help kids like her.
“If my little 7-year-old self could look at my 23-year-old self and see what I’m doing – that I’m an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader and I have a plan and I have dreams and I have goals – I look at myself now and I’m high-fiving myself. I’m like, ‘I am beautiful and I am enough and I don’t need anyone to tell me otherwise.’”
She can’t go back and tell herself – but she can tell others.
“If a young child heard this and it really touched them and they really applied themselves and they were motivated by what I said, I feel like that’s more of an honor than anything else. You put a little spark in them and who knows what they could do.”