The Inspirational Story of 29-year-old Kristin Ciarlone: An Everett Cheering Coach and Cancer Survivor
This story was compiled from a posting by Kelly Wilson of the Pop Warner Cheer Chatter Blog, and a recent interview with Kristin Ciarlone by NoBo Magazine’s Keith Spencer.
EVERETT – I’ve known Kristin Ciarlone since we were kids. We’re from the same side of the city, and we went to the same elementary school.
Now, we both work with the youth of our hometown, and I can say quite easily that Kristin is without a doubt one of the most influential and inspirational young women to come out of the City of Everett.
For the last twenty years of her life, Ciarlone has spent every fall on the fields of Glendale Park in the her the Woodlawn neighborhood of Everett. Through her early years with the Huskies, Ciarlone says she learned a lot about working hard, setting goals, and making memories.
As an Everett Huskies cheerleader herself, Ciarlone was part of the city’s first team to attend the National Pop Warner finals in 1993, traveling to Santa Clara, California. She participated in two more national competitions
The mission of Pop Warner Little Scholars is to enable young people to benefit from participation in team sports and activities in a safe and structured environment. Their programs aim to teach fundamental values, skills and knowledge that young people will use throughout their lives.
Kristin has done this each and every day since she began coaching in 1998, inspiring hundreds of young women and equally as many friends and family members.
When doctors found an “over-sized tumor” growing in her neck in 2001, she was diagnosed with with a stage four cancer, a nasopharyngeal carcinoma. She underwent nine months of intense day to day chemo and two types of radiation. She has had fifteen surgeries, resulting in hearing loss and limited jaw mobility.
Kristin was faced with another serious health crisis in 2005, diagnosed with a bone disease eating away at her jaw. Flown to New York City, she was in the hospital for 18 days. Her jaw would be replaced with part of her shoulder.
As if it all weren’t enough, she’d suffer a small heart attack while in the ICU.
Despite intense treatment and a tough recovery, Kristin continued to work hard to make sure the next routine was planned. Letters rolled in, cards and small gifts accompanying them. Kristin has stated these blessings helped keep her alive.
“Something as small as their love and hope, kept me going,” she recalled.
After being told she couldn’t coach that year, a heartbroken Kristin was encouraged by her girls, and returned that season.
“That was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever experienced. To know that I went beyond what doctors said I wouldn’t do in a life time, in just 1 month. I did it for these girls, who never gave up on me. I would never have given up on them.”
After it all and despite continued struggles, you’ll be happy to know Kristin has been cancer-free for nine years, and is more involved with the organization that was by her side through it all.
Kristin’s record speaks volumes. She has taken teams to the national championships seven times as a coach, and just last week attended the 2011 National Pop Warner Cheerleading Finals in Orlando as the Everett Huskies Cheer Director. This was her third visit under this title.
Her passion is unending, and her commitment to her girls is unparalleled to anyone I know. For someone just entering her thirties, its hard to believe all she has accomplished among the bumps in the road along the way.
“Kristin was one of the biggest influences on my early teenage years, and is still contributing to my success today,” said Krystina Hogan, a former Huskies cheerleader and current assistant coach. “She has made me realize what is most important in life without really knowing it, through her strength and positive attitude towards everything.”
“My daughter has done countless things for the girls over the years, ” Kristin’s mom has said. “As a coach and director, she always puts herself last, even her health. The girls are always first. She is the first to provide kids with what they need, rides, lends money, practice uniforms, babysit, even opened up her home in the past. Whatever these girls need, Kristin is there to lend a hand.”
Kristin is engaged to be married in 2012, and her fiance doesn’t mind sharing his fiance with the Huskies.
“That’s what I admire most about her, her dedication to the youth of her city,” notes Greg Fulton, Kristin’s fiancé. “When life threw her nothing but pain and disease, she fought back. She puts her girls before everything in her life.”
“Everyone wants to win, of course,” adds Kristin, “But my main focus is to have these girls walk away with memories of that they will never forget.”
“I am very proud to be a Huskie. This is my life.”