By Megan Carpenter, Staff Writer
This season has provided a lot of change and new opportunities for the Reading Express, but changes have occurred for the team beyond the realm of football. This season was something very special for the Smokin’ Hot Steam Team. Up until this season, the Steam Team was known primarily as a dance team, but that aspect has been eliminated. The Steam Team has seen a transformation from a dance team to a group of well-rounded goodwill ambassadors.
Gone are the days of dancing, here are the days of community service and honorable representation for the team. The girls are the first to admit that the changed has been welcomed, and is one for the better.
Each member of the Steam Team selected their own charity or foundation that they were to work closely with this season. While some girls selected their charities for very personal reasons, others picked organizations they weren’t very familiar with, but came to appreciate very much. Steam Team member Michele explains, “Every girl has their own charity for their own reasons. Everybody has kind of their own angle for why they wanted their own charity to help, and it’s just like everybody gets together in the community. I think it’s great. It definitely puts us in a good light, and puts the Express in a good light.”
Along with these service projects came a contest for the title of Ambassador of the Year. All throughout the season fans, family and friends had the opportunity to vote for a Steam Team member who they thought deserved to be named Ambassador of the Year. This was done via a text message voting system. It finally came down to the top three – Michele, Tiffanie and Teaya.
At the June 18th playoff game against the Chicago Slaughter, the winner of the Ambassador of the Year contest was announced at the halftime break. This year, that honor went to Michele.
Right after halftime, the announcement began to sink in and Michele shared how she was feeling, “Awesome. I’m so happy, I’m so excited, and I can’t believe it.” Michele is thankful for the support she received from the Humane Society in her charitable efforts with them this season.
Right after her win was announced on the field, Michele had the opportunity to deliver an acceptance speech and admitted afterwards to having been nervous, “It’s still nerve-wracking because everybody’s out there looking at you. I didn’t want to forget anybody.” Michele made sure she thanked both the Humane Society for letting her work with them and Ted and Lisa Lavendar for bringing her back for another season.
Michele’s charity, the Human Society of Berks County, will receive a $500 donation on behalf of the Express because of her win. But for Michele, she received a trophy. “My daughter already asked me if it was a candy dish,” Michele joked, adding that she will need to have a mantle built in her house to display the trophy.
For Ambassador of the Year Michele, this is her second season with the Steam Team. Her favorite part about being on the Steam Team is working with all the other girls, “We all get along, and we all have a lot in common. We all have a good time together, too.”
Michele’s selected organization is the Humane Society. Michele’s passion for animals helped her make the decision, “I love animals. I have three dogs. One of them was a rescue dog from the Humane Society. Finding homes for animals has been something near and dear to my heart.”
The Humane Society has been a great organization to team up with explains Michele, “They’re all great there. Everybody that I’ve worked with has really helped in getting the word out.”
A proud memory for Michele was when the Humane Society brought animals to one of the Express games and a dog was adopted that day, “If it wasn’t for me choosing them, that dog probably either wouldn’t have found a home or wouldn’t have found a home as quickly as he did.”
Michele has done appearances for the Humane Society including one at a charity soccer game.
Michele has a two-year-old daughter, and is proud to call herself and the other girls role models for her little girl, “One of my favorite things is having the little girls come up after the games and ask for your trading card or ask for your autograph. It makes their day. It helps their self-esteem, and it’s really good to have kids have someone to look up to.”
This year was Tiffanie’s second year on the Steam Team, but a completely brand new experience as she got to work closely with her organization of choice, the Olivet Boys and Girls Club of Reading and Berks County.
“I went and spoke to different groups of kids. Since they see us as role models and look up to us, they really enjoy having you there as a speaker.” Tiffanie has also participated in fundraising events for the club.
The reason behind Tiffanie’s selection of the club was a very personal one. “I grew up in the city of Reading,” says Tiffanie, who has a younger brother and sister that attended the club, “I just know that they’re doing a lot for the inner city kids. They are a safe place for them to go and do different activities. I feel very strongly about the great work that they are doing for the kids.”
Tiffanie is very proud to consider herself a role model for the kids of the city in which she grew up, “I think it’s awesome. I do. These kids are amazing.”
The Ambassador of the Year contest had provided Tiffanie with a lot of motivation to play an active role in the community, “I think it was great because it really put the motivation out there to spread the word about the Express, and also it raised a lot of awareness for all the charities.”
Tiffanie enjoys being at all the Express games, especially interacting with the fans, “The best thing is when little 12, 13-year-old boys come up and ask for a hug. That’s always cute.”
This season was Teaya’s first year with the Steam Team, but she wasted no time on making an impact. Being a part of the Steam Team has been an experience that Teaya has fallen in love with, “I’m not going to lie, I absolutely love it. It’s like I added a family.” Teaya says that all of the girls get along well and have really bonded, “It’s like I made 11 new best friends.”
When Teaya auditioned for the Steam Team before the season began, she was unaware of the makeover that the team was receiving, “I showed up kind of worried because I never had a lot of dance background, so I was nervous. Then when they said they were doing more with the community and everything I thought that was perfect for me because that’s exactly what I’m all about.”
The charity that Teaya selected to work with this year was the Animal Rescue League. “I love animals. For the last year and a half I’ve been fostering kittens, so it just meshed perfectly with me.”
In working with the Animal Rescue League, Teaya has gone to many of their fundraising events to support them including a Vera Bradley Bingo event. She also attends the open houses with the animals. Up next she will be attending a gala, which is the Animal Rescue League’s big event for the year.
“They have been amazing,” Teaya says of the Animal Rescue League, “They were all so friendly and helpful.”
Teaya is really proud of the Steam Team and the direction they’ve gone in this year, “I think it’s just great because it’s one thing to have girls come out and dance for a couple minutes every game, it’s another thing to have the girls out in the community making a difference.”
A Positive Change
The girls of the Steam team are really happy to see growth for the Express’s relationship with the community. They are proud of the performances they have given this season, and are looking forward to working with the community again in the future.
For more information on the Smokin' Hot Steam Team, please visit www.expressindoorfootball.com/steamteam