During a backflip at cheerleading practice this past summer, 15-year-old Gianna Bongiorno suffered a devastating fall that ended with her having hip surgery in July.
"My muscle fell off the bone and tore in half," said the Smithtown High School East sophomore.
It will take her seven months to fully recover, but she didn't let that stop her from cheering from the sidelines supporting her fellow cheerleaders and the Smithtown High School East football team during the homecoming game Saturday.
Bongiorno was dressed in her full cheerleading outfit and elated to show her school spirit.
"It means a lot that the team still accepts me as one of them," said Bongiorno. "I feel happy when I cheer. I can't wait until the fall next year when I can cheer with them again."
The school joined Bongiorno's spirit of forging ahead, holding their homecoming parade on a day in which many schools' homecoming festivities were canceled.
Smithtown High School East principal Ed Thompson was excited to see the community support, even with gusty winds and constant rain.
"We had an awesome pep rally yesterday and the moral was at an all-time high. Then we had a lot of smiling faces at the parade today. It's a great start to the football game," said Thompson of the day, which also featured a halftime performance by the Smithtown High School East Whisperettes kickline squad. "It's important for the seniors to have their fun time. Homecoming is part of tradition and we have a lot of school spirit here."
Freshman Cheerleader Sasha Young, 14, said that she wasn't going to allow the rainy weather to dampen her cheerful spirit.
"It's so much fun to perform in front of the school," she said. "This weather today is nothing. We have cheered in the snow."