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Eagles Cheerleaders celebrate 75th Anniversary

Eagles Cheerleaders
Eagles Cheerleaders

Lincoln Financial Field will have a different look to it Sunday afternoon as the Eagles celebrate the Kelly Green era of the late '80s and early '90s when the Buffalo Bills come to town.

Sunday's throwback extravaganza will also celebrate a long-standing Philadelphia football tradition – the Eagles Cheerleaders.

2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the Eagles Cheerleaders, who were founded in 1948. A fitting time as the Eagles won their first World Championship that season, and this year's squad is in position to make another title run.

There are several changes from when the original squad was formed. The Eagles Cheerleaders previously were called the Eaglettes and the Liberty Belles. The uniforms are sleek and modern, designed by Vera Wang, the internationally renowned bridal designer. The music that the Eagles Cheerleaders will perform to on the sidelines and on the field encapsulates the vibrant energy that the 33 women and men bring to every event, but is vastly different than the songs of the 1970s disco era that inspired the dance routines.

What fans see on the surface is different today than in 1948, but the purpose and impact of the Eagles Cheerleaders largely remain unchanged.

This Sunday, the Eagles Cheerleaders will celebrate their 75th anniversary as the team wears the Kelly Green throwback uniforms. To commemorate the occasion, here are Kelly Green-themed trading cards with the special 75th anniversary logo.

"Following the 1999-2001 seasons as a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader, I had the privilege of being named director in 2002. I immediately understood the immense and beautiful responsibility that existed to uphold the rich legacy of the program," said Barbara Zaun, Director of Entertainment Teams. "Over the past 20-plus years, it has been an honor to work with the extraordinary women and men who have represented the organization as Eagles Cheerleaders and to utilize the compelling platform we have to make a positive impact in the lives of others. The authentic connection Eagles Cheerleaders have with fans in Philadelphia and around the world is truly special and has spanned decades. I am filled with great excitement as well as gratitude to participate in celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders and recognizing their valuable contributions, individually and collectively, made to the Eagles organization."

Nearly 70,000 fans witness the Eagles Cheerleaders perform live on gamedays and millions more see them on television, but they serve an invaluable role that extends well beyond the stadium. They engage with fans at hundreds of events throughout the entire calendar year, for them there is no "offseason." As global brand ambassadors, the Eagles Cheerleaders embrace building the strong connection with the fans and the community.

Maggie Trush Hammond recalls the opportunity to meet the Eagles Cheerleaders at a cheerleader competition in the 1980s.

"I was in total awe of the glamorous, beautiful, charismatic, and talented women," Hammond said. "I knew right then and there I would try out someday."

The Eagles Cheerleaders perform during a 1998 game against the Lions.
The Eagles Cheerleaders perform during a 1998 game against the Lions.

Not only did she try out, Hammond was a member of the squad from the 1993 through the 1998 seasons. As much as she cherishes the bonds formed and memories shared with teammates, Hammond still has a picture of her with a young cancer patient she met during a community event at a local hospital. The two would dance in the hospital room and do makeup together. Hammond remained in touch with the young girl and her family for several years until her battle with cancer came to an end. Today, Hammond is a labor and delivery charge nurse.

While Hammond has not performed on a gameday in more than 20 years, she still maintains a pivotal role as the President of the Philadelphia Professional Football Cheerleader Alumni, a group she helped start in 2009. Members include Cheryl Garguilo, who first tried out for the Eaglettes in 1965.

"Being a brand ambassador in the '60s meant having the responsibility of embodying and promoting the values, image, and interests of the Philadelphia Eagles organization," Garguilo said. "We were expected to be enthusiastic and positive representatives of the team, both on and off the field, engaging with fans and the community, participating in promotional activities and events, and fostering a strong connection between the team and supporters. We were considered the face of the organization."

The Eagles Cheerleaders are role models who break stereotypes and inspire people to celebrate their uniqueness, believe in themselves, and follow their dreams. The women and men are accomplished off the field with careers ranging from analytical chemist to oncology clinical research scientist to historian to chief marketing officer to elementary and special education teacher, just to name a few.

But that's nothing new.

The Eagles Cheerleaders are seen here in action during a 1992 game vs. the Raiders.
The Eagles Cheerleaders are seen here in action during a 1992 game vs. the Raiders.

Audrey Rostick, who cheered from 1993-95, grew up in the Philippines and migrated to the United States at 17 years old with very little money. She paid her way through college, earned a marketing degree, and has spent the better part of four decades working for some of the largest tech companies in the world.

"It was important for me to represent our team of beautiful, bright, and diverse women with pride and integrity," Rostick said. "I was so proud to promote that we were driven, caring, and intelligent as we balanced cheering and volunteering part-time while holding full-time jobs such as nurses, HR managers, pharmaceutical reps, high-tech IT sales, teachers, and attorneys."

While Rostick didn't arrive in Philadelphia until her teenage years, Nicole Douglas-Di Paolo grew up right in South Philadelphia, about a half-mile from the old Veterans Stadium.

"I remember attending my first game as a little girl sitting in the infamous 700 level in the Vet with my dad," said Douglas-Di Paolo, a member of the squad from 1996-2004 and a Pro Bowl Cheerleader. "I was watching the Eagles Cheerleaders the whole time, not the game, and said, 'Daddy, I want to be a cheerleader!' His laughing response was, 'We're supposed to be watching the game.' I just smiled. To be able to officially represent the organization I grew up cheering for was an honor and a privilege. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to represent my city and meet so many amazing fans and lifelong friends (aka Cheer Sisters) as a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader."

As Douglas-Di Paolo noted, some of the Eagles Cheerleaders became best friends or "Cheer Sisters," but there have been actual sisters who performed on the squad together. In fact, there were three sets of twins at the same time for two seasons (1984-85) – Kelly Nickischer Crits and Kim Nickischer Makuvek, Sandy Marinari Milto and Kathy Marinari Stephens, and Janet Wass Retter and Joyce Wass Hogan. The Wasses are actually triplets with a brother.

"That was very unusual," Makuvek said. "We were asked to participate in several activities associated with our 'twin-ship' – television appearance on a daytime talk show about twins, newspaper interviews regarding twins, and personal appearances for Moms with Twins to share our experiences. We were close friends and remain friends with those other sets of twins. We have photos of the six of us 25 years apart. That is something special!"

The Eagles Cheerleaders showcase their talent during a 1990 game against the Patriots.
The Eagles Cheerleaders showcase their talent during a 1990 game against the Patriots.

The memories of being an Eagles Cheerleader last a lifetime, but there eventually comes a point when it's time to hang up the poms. The skills and talents acquired as an Eagles Cheerleader help aid the transition to new and exciting opportunities in life. One of those is motherhood.

"How do I say this? Cheering for the Eagles prepared me for motherhood!" exclaimed Mandi Moffa, who was on the squad from 2013-18. "Giving someone else a great day, finding the joy in every day, and preparing for special events – or overly preparing for potential wardrobe/transportation malfunctions – all made me into the strong, kind, flexible, yet prepared momma and alumni cheerleader that I am today. I am more grounded, confident, and reflective. I am here to bring joy to others and to make our home a better place to be whether that be within our city, or within my own four walls."

The impact of the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders is hardly confined to the City of Brotherly Love. As there are Eagles Everywhere, the Eagles Cheerleaders have been around the globe, supporting fans wherever they are, especially those serving in the military – not including Rachel Washburn, a former Eagles Cheerleader who did two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. Moffa participated in a Goodwill Military Tour to the U.S. Naval Support Base Diego Garcia. Corinne Chun's sixth and final season as an Eagles Cheerleader ended during Super Bowl LVII while visiting Camp Zama, Japan. Chun previously did another Goodwill Military Tour in her home state of Hawaii.

As a special education teacher, Chun is proud that the Eagles Cheerleaders participate in the annual Eagles Autism Challenge to raise awareness and funds for the critical neurological and developmental disorder.

"I was a face and a voice for each of my teammates, for myself, and for all of the things that the Eagles organization stood for," Chun said. "This was especially evident when the Eagles launched the Eagles Autism Challenge and the Eagles Autism Foundation. As a special education teacher, I get to educate my students every day, and as a brand ambassador, I get to educate the community about my amazing students and others like them in order to bring awareness and raise money for autism research."

Whether you spent one season or several like former Pro Bowl Cheerleader Tara Nepa, who was a member of the squad from 2001-07, it's something, they say, that always remains a part of you.

"No matter how much time has passed, we still represent the Eagles organization," Nepa said.

The Eagles Cheerleaders have performed for 75 years, entertaining millions upon millions of fans, and creating memories of a lifetime for generations. While some of the glitz and glamour has changed, the service and dedication to Eagles Everywhere and the City of Philadelphia remains paramount.

Getting ready for Super Bowl LII!
Getting ready for Super Bowl LII!

It was the first Kelly Green game and the Eagles Cheerleaders made their presence known! Check out the best photos from a fun and historic evening.

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