Heather Harmon is a bit young to be a coach.
And that’s exactly what the Hamilton Southeastern sophomore told i9 Sports Owner Eric Rhiver when he asked her to coach cheerleading this spring.
”’I’m only 16; Are you sure you want me?’” she recalls telling Rhiver. “He said, ‘I know you can do it,’ and I said, ‘OK.’”
Now Harmon is among the most popular coaches at i9. She leads five girls – ages 7 to 12 – in cheering for flag football teams every Saturday at Horizon Christian School. The girls just love Coach Heather, Rhiver said. He had so much confidence in the young teen because she’s not the typical “cheerleader type.” Rhiver wanted someone who would be a good role model for the aspiring cheerleaders and who worked well with children.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/eOvTa4giruY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]Heather, who was a cheerleader for the Royals’ JV girls basketball team this year, fit that ideal.
“People instantly like her,” Rhiver said. “She’s just a very sweet young lady.”
Heather has a passion for working with kids. During the school year, she wakes up well before sunrise to lead Campus Life groups for students at Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers Junior High schools. The meetings start at 6:30 a.m. – an hour before school – and include donuts, games and small group discussions about issues such as peer pressure and living a Christian life. Heather meets with other Campus Life volunteers and staff members weekly to plan activities for the 40-50 kids who show up at each school every week.
“I’m a very kid-oriented person. I come from a big family,” said Heather, who is one of seven children, ages 7 to 19.
As school winds down for the summer, Heather will still be working with children. She’s trying to raise $1,300 to go on a mission trip with Northeast Community Church to Jamaica, where she plans to do light construction work at an orphanage. She went to the same location last summer, and she can’t wait to visit the children who captured her heart.
“For two days, I worked with kids who don’t have a family,” Heather recalls. “They would ask me, ‘When you go home, do you have a mom?’”
In fact, Heather does have a mom who is very proud of her daughter’s desire to help others.
“To be almost 17 years old, I’m pretty proud of her,” said Gina Fornefeld of Brookston Place. “I know she makes the right choices.”
Gina says she knew Heather was special when she fell 30 feet from a third-floor apartment balcony at age 4 and immediately got up to find her mother.
“She said, ‘Don’t worry, Mom, I’m OK; an angel caught me,” Gina recalls. The family wasn’t going to church at the time and didn’t talk about angels. Although Heather broke both arms, there were no life-threatening injuries from the terrible fall.
Rhiver is a friend of Heather’s father, Jon Harmon, and has had many opportunities over the years to witness how much Heather cares for kids – whether it be her own siblings or children she’s never met before. He’s never regretted hiring a 16-year-old coach. In fact, Heather will be heading up an i9 Sports cheerleading camp this summer at Sahm Park the week of July 16-20.
“The girls make it so much fun,” Heather said. “They’re willing to do anything. They’re all enthusiastic and excited to be there.”
Clearly, Heather Harmon is, too!
Photos and video by Brenda Staples, Brenda@atGeist.com.