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Bemidji State Cheerleaders put the ‘Happy’ in Happy Birthday

By Matthew Ascher

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On October 1, 2014 the BSU cheerleading team attended the 18th birthday of a young boy with Hurler Syndrome.

The boy, Nick Bly, is a big fan of BSU and is interested in the hockey team.  “Nick’s teacher told us how big of a fan he is of Bemidji sports, and especially the cheerleaders,” said Alyssa Bestul, who is a captain of the BSU hockey cheerleading team. “We were flattered and overjoyed! It was such an honor!”  The birthday party took place at Ventures in Fosston, and the team gifted Nick a signed BSU hockey jersey and a signed card from all of the cheerleaders.

According to the Journal of American Medical Association,

BSU cheerleaders present Nick with a signed BSU hockey jersey.
BSU cheerleaders present Nick with a signed BSU hockey jersey.

Hurler syndrome is an inherited metabolic disorder associated with a deficiency of α-L-iduronidase. Affected patients have a characteristic appearance and progressive multisystem deterioration, with death usually occurring before age 10.  The disease makes it hard for a person break down long chains of sugar molecules called glycosaminoglycans.  The symptoms of the disease can include halted growth, heart valve problems, as well as intellectual disabilities that can get worse over time. Hurler Syndrome is a disease with a very poor outlook but through certain treatments such as enzyme replacement, bone marrow transplants, and umbilical cord blood transplants, the affected person has a much higher chance of survival.  There is currently increasing interest in gene therapy as well since there have been successful trials in animals with the syndrome.

Getting involved in the community is something that is very important to the BSU Cheer Organization. “These events are so important. Being able to get involved with the community and fans is very important to us as a team,” says Alyssa.  “We have been blessed to meet so many amazing people through events such as this.”