SPRINGFIELD – Like thousands of teenagers across the country, Noel Demetrio was her happiest when performing cheer routines with her teammates. That happiness, however, quickly turned tragic when she was lifted into the air during a halftime performance, only to fall and face serious injury that led to immediate hospitalization.

After a year of physical and emotional struggles, then-15-year-old Demetrio recovered and was able to cheer again. Yet, she acknowledged that many people across the state and nation aren’t that lucky – leading her to work with State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) to ensure cheerleaders of all levels learn proper safety standards.

“I am thankful to Senator Morrison for believing in me. My hope was that something could be done throughout our state to protect cheerleaders. In fact, I felt I had an obligation to help greatly reduce serious injury in the sport of cheer,” said Demetrio. “I have loved taking part in the legislative process. With Senator Morrison’s strong advocacy, as well as Representative Bob Morgan leading the way in the House, my hope has been realized. I am grateful that the safety standards that have now been enacted into law will greatly reduce serious injury in the sport I love.” 

Morrison was enamored with Demetrio’s drive to turn her experience into change to minimize the risk for other cheerleaders and make the sport safer. She worked with the young Lake Forest athlete to pass a newly signed law to require the Illinois High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association to adopt the Spirit Rules Book – which sets standards and regulations to ensure the safe practice and competition of cheer teams.

“It takes a lot of care, compassion and resilience to turn a tragedy into change,” said Morrison. “I am proud of Noel’s steadfast advocacy to make a difference by protecting future generations of cheerleaders.”

In 2022, 18,007 cheerleading injuries led to emergency room visits across the country. Together, Morrison and Demetrio’s efforts to enhance precautions and knowledge will lead to fewer injuries.

“Cheerleading — while a sport full of enthusiasm and spirit – can quickly take a turn, as Noel learned firsthand,” said Morrison. “I am proud of our joint effort to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of cheer and spirit leaders.”

Senate Bill 2861 was signed into law last week and takes effect Jan. 1, 2025.