NEW YORK (PIX11) — One community initiative is working to provide support to LGBTQ+ youth in New York City, and they are doing that in a very special way: they are cheerleading.

Gotham Cheer was founded in 2018 by Felipe Hernandez and Latoya Leflore.

“We do it for the voiceless,” said Hernandez. “With our community, with diversity, and a little bit of glitter.” 

The performers come from all walks of life. They are psychologists, teachers, lawyers, designers, and doctors, all volunteering a bit of their time to benefit their community.

“Sometimes we think about Pride as just wearing rainbows and being ‘yay, we are gay,’ but it’s a lot more than just that,” said William Stallings, one of the cheerleaders. “I am here because I want to let that little gay boy know that there’s someone out there for you, there is a place where you’re loved, and there is a community for you.” 

The camaraderie has a deeper meaning to the cheerleaders.

“I played football, but I loved to cheer. So I chose football over cheer because I was afraid of being my full and authentic self,” Stallings said. “This platform for me allows me to have that full-circle moment and reconnect with that little gay boy who always wanted to do this.”

The hope is that the organization can also offer a safe space for young LGBTQ+ individuals who might be experiencing rough times in their journeys.

“It’s being present and being there,” said John-Deric Mitchell, a member of the group. “We want to show the next child, the next person that, you know what, if they are doing OK, I can do OK too.” 

The jumps, chants, and dance attract audiences wherever and whenever the group is performing or practicing.

“The reaction is amazing,” said Mitchel. “We get all types of excitement. We welcome the diversity of New York, and that is what we are about: celebrating the love in New York City.” 

The group meets every week for practice and putting on the performance is the big payoff. On top of providing support and raising money for LGBTQ+ causes, the nonprofit also helps the AIDS Center in Queens, a community initiative that works to offer a quality of life and support the well-being of people with HIV/AIDS and their families. 

If you are interested in trying out to become a cheerleader with Gotham Cheer, you can visit gothamcheer.org.

“You could join; anybody could join,” said Hernandez.