The term “sisterhood” is a popular reference to female friendship. The Colts cheerleaders use it often to describe their close-knit relationship. But it wasn’t until crisis struck one of their own, that the meaning became all too real for them.
“In the shower, I got dizzy. I got out and my arm was numb. Pure numbness. I made my way to my room and I fell down on the floor. I had a headache, an intense headache. I tried to get up to my bed and I got in. I couldn’t speak. For 36 hours, I laid there. I was dying.”
At 28 years old, former Colts cheerleader Tessa David had suffered a stroke. Now in Dallas, she still had a close relationship with many of her former cheer sisters in Indianapolis. One of them, Erin B., jumped on a plane immediately to be with her.
“She couldn’t talk, she could barely smile, she couldn’t move anything really, they had her stand up a little bit, had her walk just a little bit, but not very much,” she says.
That was last December. Tessa says Erin’s wedding in Indianapolis on July 18th served as both inspiration and motivation.
“Erin said, ‘I’ll wheel you down in the wheelchair.’ I walked. No cane, no boot, nothing,” Tessa says.
The following Friday, she was a special guest at Latitude 360 for the Colts Cheerleaders calendar release party. And for the first time, the event was also a benefit – for Tessa.
“The idea started with our cheerleader manager, Kelly,” says Colts director of marketing, Stephanie Pemberton. “She stopped by my office and said, ‘Hey, what if we did this?’ And I was like, ‘That would be awesome!’ It was a quick decision because we knew it was the right thing to do. And Tessa, obviously, is part of our Colts family and she will always be a part of our Colts family.”
Part of the proceeds from Friday night’s event will go towards Tessa’s recovery, helping with her expenses, therapy, and ongoing medical treatment. She calls it an honor, exciting, and a little overwhelming.
“It means so much to me that they’re doing that. It makes me sad now,” Tessa says, as her big, green eyes fill up with tears.
The Colts don’t just say they’re a family – they show it. It’s part of their culture. It starts at the top and runs through the entire organization, from the staff, to the players, to the cheerleaders.
“I think they all see Tessa as a sister and that this is something that you do for family,” says Pemberton. “You reach out, and you help, and you support them when they’re going through something.”
Especially when that something could have taken everything from someone so positive, so full of life, and so beautiful – both inside and out.
“When she was on the team, everybody knew who Tessa was. That’s just how she is,” says Erin. “She just has a great personality, everybody loves her. So, I think that helped. And all of the Colts fans have gotten her story out. It’s been amazing how many people are so supportive.”
Tessa will return to San Francisco this weekend to continue her therapy and focus on her main goal, which is simple – to get back to herself. No matter how long it takes.
“I’m a fighter,” she says.
Tessa doesn’t know what the future holds, but there’s no doubt about one thing. She knows who she can count on.
“Once a Colts cheerleader, you’re always a Colts cheerleader. We’re going to be sisters for the rest of our lives,” says Colts cheerleader Stefanie B.
And they’ll be there for each other every day, every month, and every year.
The Colts Cheerleaders Swimsuit Calendar will be available at the Colts Pro Shop. You can also get an autographed copy during Colts training camp at Anderson University August 1-14.