Now in her fifth season, Colts Cheerleader Crystal Anne has had some great experiences.
She’s done calendar shoots in exotic locations, shaved her head for cancer, greeted military members in Puerto Rico and Curacao, but what happened in September was truly amazing.
Her cousin Johnny, who is in the Army and stationed in Alaska, heard about a military tour involving NFL cheerleaders.
“He found out these girls went to Honduras and he said, ‘Crystal, you should get some cheerleaders to come up to Alaska.’”
She didn’t think much of it. Until a few weeks later, when the Colts cheer coach, Kelly Tilley, approached her with an opportunity to go on a military tour – to Alaska.
“I didn’t even bring it up. It just happened like that,” said Crystal Anne.
Still, she kept quiet about it.
“I didn’t want to tell him right away just in case I didn’t go to his base. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. But he sent me a picture on Facebook of a flyer with our faces. And he said, ‘Is this you? Are you coming up here?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I am!’”
She’s not sure if it was luck, fate, or coincidence.
“I don’t know. It was a miracle. It worked out really well.”
Either way, it’s a trip she says she’ll never forget.
Joined by cheerleaders from the Ravens, Titans, Chiefs, Vikings, Bengals, and along with Titans mascot T-Rac and Viktor the Viking, Crystal Anne represented the Colts on an NFL preseason tour to Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.
Put on by Armed Forces Entertainment and ProTour Productions, the group spent five days in early September visiting schools, daycares, and entertaining service members while getting them excited about the 2015 NFL season.
“The best is when there’s a family that has all the gear on, from the kids all the way to the mom and dad, it’s just great seeing fans that are very dedicated to their organization.”
She even met some Colts fans along the way.
“One of them was on TDY (temporary duty assignment), so he was only there for a short period of time. So, we’re pen pal partners now. We keep in touch. And he’s a very diehard Colts fan. He has his fantasy football team as all Colts players.”
The highlights of her trip included: A moose sighting. A trip to Denali National Park.
A visit to the North Pole (yes, they saw Santa).
And spending time with her cousin on September 11th.
“It was great seeing him. I was actually the first of our family to go see him.”
And with this being her first solo trip representing the Colts, Crystal Anne says she came home with an extended cheer family as well.
“We still keep in touch, even though there are games that we do play each other. We’ll say, ‘Looking for you on TV because we know you’re cheering that game.’ It’s great.”
The best part, she says, was seeing the impact of the NFL family and just how far it reaches.
“Just seeing the NFL, this is a great organization to connect with people. And we can definitely touch lives and even though we feel at home and very comfortable in our city, there’s definitely fans all over the world that you can just connect with and build that relationship within seconds.”
But more than anything, Crystal Anne says she’s grateful – for the men and women who serve their country and for the opportunity to thank them in person. Coming from a military family herself (her father is retired from the Air Force), made it that much more meaningful.
“I don’t know how Kelly chose me or the organization chose me, but I’m just very thankful for the opportunity. I was able to just soak it in, do my job to my best there, and just make connections with other fans.”
And in a coincidence that almost feels fated, reconnect with a far away family member.
Football is family. It brings people together.
Sometimes spanning thousands of miles to do so.