Tuesday, January 29, 2008

English Major Kicks Off 'Super Sunday Tour' with NFL Colleagues 

Posted by Sasha at 5:59 PM ET

Senior Stephanie Ryan, a Ben-Gals cheerleader who plans a teaching career, will team with other NFL representatives on Super Bowl Sunday. The five-member squad will "meet and greet" troops in Afghanistan as members of a military goodwill effort.

By: Britt Kennerly
McMicken College

Talk about your franchise players.

When it's kickoff time between the Patriots and the Giants in Phoenix, senior English major Stephanie Ryan will be about 7,000 miles from Cincinnati – celebrating Super Bowl Sunday with American troops in the Middle East.

A Queen City native who grew up in Milford, Ryan is a two-year member of the Ben-Gals cheerleaders. She, another Ben-Gal and three NFL football players are headed to Afghanistan Jan. 31-Feb. 10 to visit with United States troops as a member of a military "Super Sunday Tour." Ryan was asked to do the tour, she says, by the Ben-Gals coach who organizes public appearances for the squad. Arranged through the Pentagon, the goodwill effort will revolve around "meet and greet" sessions with troops, says Charlotte Jacobs, Ben-Gals coach.

Ryan, who plans to pursue a master's degree in education after graduating from UC this summer, says she's thrilled to be part of the cadre of NFL representatives in an experience she's sure will be "amazing."

"I was extremely excited to be chosen and feel blessed to have been given this opportunity," she says. "Spending time with the troops is very important to me. I recently got back from a trip to Seattle, Wash., where the Ben-Gals visited with the men and women at a base called Ft. Lewis. The enormity of their dedication and hard work left an impression on me and I also felt grateful that these men and women have dedicated their lives to serving our country. I felt extremely honored to have brought a little excitement and entertainment to these people who do so much for us. I expect to have the same experiences in Afghanistan, and cannot wait to meet these amazing people who go so far from home to serve our country."

Ryan's personality and positive attributes came through when the choice of representatives was made, Jacobs says.

"Stephanie is very responsible, very dedicated, reliable and accountable," the coach notes.

Merging in-class and on-field activities results in a full calendar for Ryan. She began cheering at age 5, was a member of a dance team as a high-schooler and calls being an NFL cheerleader the realization of "a lifelong dream." Community involvement is part of being a Ben-Gal, but, Ryan says, broadens her horizons.

"Being a Ben-Gal while I am in school has been tough," she admits. "Managing practices, games, appearances and work, along with classes and homework, nearly drives me crazy every day! But it is worth it, because I am able to do what I love."

That includes sharing her love for football and respect for the American military: She's "happy that I can bring a little piece of home over to our troops in Afghanistan," Ryan concludes.

"As you can imagine, it is really hard for them to be away from their families and to be in a foreign country for such a long time," she says. "I imagine that watching football games and meeting us is a glimpse of home and I feel lucky to be a part of that."

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