Now in her sixth season with the Colts Cheerleaders, Mariah expects to have the bar raised on her every year.
“Coach Kelly is one of those big out of the box thinkers,” she said. “She was telling us, ‘I want to think beyond the field and beyond being pretty faces and taking pretty pictures. You guys are so much more than that and I want to highlight that.’”
The concept of the Community Impact Challenge was simple – find a cause to support and come up with a plan to do it. Fans vote on their favorite project and the winner gets $10,000 to bring it to life.
The Colts Cheerleaders partnered with Apple Vacations for their 2018 Creative Shoot in Mexico. Here is a look at Mariah's swimwear photo shoot at the Sandos Playacar Resort in Mexico.
But finding a cause wasn’t so simple for Mariah.
“I was going to go to dinner with Mia and Keri (Benge) and I ended up asking them. I said, ‘I want to do something with Mia’s blanket business,’” she said. “I didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like, but I knew that was what I wanted to do. They both agreed to come onboard and go with me on this journey and they’ve been with me ever since.”
It’s a journey that started six years ago, when she was a rookie on the squad.
“I was 19 and it was a Thursday practice and Matt Overton (former Colts long snapper) had reached out. Mia was supposed to go to the Justin Bieber concert and he was like, ‘Hey, there’s a little girl in the hospital and she’s barely hanging on.’ He wanted to throw a Taco Bell Justin Bieber party and he wanted cheerleaders to be there.”
Reluctantly, she volunteered.
“I remember Kelly asking, ‘Is anybody available?’ In my heart I was like, ‘I’m so terrified. What do you do as a 19-year-old? What do I have to offer these people?’ But I raised my hand. I remember driving to Riley and I was so nervous. I was like, ‘How am I going to make an impact?’ I remember walking into that room and seeing Mia and her family around her and I just knew from that moment.”
It was the beginning of a special relationship.
After her stroke, Mia suffered from tremors and made blankets as part of her recovery. Tying the knots helped retrain her brain – so much so, her teacher at Speedway High School wanted to make it part of the regular curriculum.
“Knot Sew FAST” is a way for Mia to leave a legacy at Speedway High School and take something that’s helped her and use it to help others with special needs.
It's also a way for Mariah to leave a legacy with Colts Cheer.
“I’m just using her story,” she said. “I’m just the vessel through which it can happen on a grander scale. It’s already happening and to be able to take that off a single mom’s plate would be awesome. Even if it’s for the next few years, $10,000 can really go a long way.”
While Mia has made progress, so has Mariah.
“That 19-year-old me would have never thought it was imaginable to go out and make a difference in my community,” she said. “Just seeing the steps I’ve taken myself over the past six years and believing that yes, I matter and yes, I can make a difference is a really cool direction that I think our team is going.”
And she’s proud to be leading the way.
“I would love for other NFL cheer teams to get onboard with this. I think it’s really cool that I can sit back when I’m an old grandma in a walker and be like, ‘Back in my cheerleading days, we were the ones who got to pioneer that and start it.’”