They vary from gold to purple and every color in between, each ready to whirl through the air as the Kansas City Chiefs take the field against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon.
These vibrant pieces of sequined cloth – essentially rally towels – will be wielded by the Chiefs Cheerleaders on the sidelines of GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium this weekend, and while they vary from the Cheerleaders' customary red game-day towels, what they'll individually represent has been close to each respective member of the squad for years. They symbolize understanding, pain, joy and loss, but more than anything, these towels represent hope.
It's all part of the "My Cause, My Cleats" initiative, which encourages players from across the NFL to sport specialized footwear designed to bring attention to charitable efforts or causes important to them. Many of the Chiefs' players will once again partake in the campaign during Sunday's game, and while they do their part on the field, the Cheerleaders – just with rally towels instead of cleats – will also do theirs.
It represents an opportunity for the Cheerleaders to shine light on a wide variety of causes – from various medical conditions to the foster care system – that have shaped who they are as individuals.
That's certainly the case for Brooke, a Cheerleader who will use her towel to represent those who have faced the terror of sudden cardiac arrest while emphasizing the importance of CPR training.
"My very best friend since kindergarten went into sudden cardiac arrest last summer," Brooke explained. "She was 23 at the time and had no health issues. It was completely out of the blue."
Brooke's friend collapsed while at home with her mother, who rushed across the street and pleaded with a neighbor – a former police officer trained in CPR – for help. It took eight minutes of CPR to revive her, and without the immediate assistance of a trained individual, Brooke's friend likely wouldn't have woken up.
"CPR training is so important," Brooke said. "One thing that I've thought a lot about is that if she was with me when that happened, I had no idea how to administer CPR. It would have been a very different outcome."
Indeed, according to Harvard University, fewer than half of those who experience cardiac arrest receive CPR right away. This is because only 18 percent of people are up-to-date with their CPR training despite the fact that – if correctly administered – CPR can double an individual's odds of surviving sudden cardiac arrest.
Brooke is hoping to lend that perspective to others, and in a bit of an ironic twist, her cause is represented by the color red. Still, while her specific rally towel won't look much different from a normal game day, its significance couldn't be greater.
"It has a little bit more meaning this time," Brooke said. "My friend's favorite team is the Chiefs, so it worked out exactly how it was supposed to."
Another Cheerleader, Jordan, will also advocate for a cause close to her heart as she seeks to raise awareness for Alzheimer's, a disease that – along with other forms of dementia – currently affects 55 million people worldwide.
"This is something that's a new development within my family," Jordan said. "My grandmother was diagnosed with dementia this year, and to be quite honest, it's still something that I'm learning about. It really caught us by surprise."
The Alzheimer’s Association defines the condition as a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. It's characterized by a general decline in cognitive abilities that eventually interferes with daily functions, making life for the affected individual – and their family – quite difficult.
"It has become a passion point for me because I want to understand how to appropriately manage certain moments that come along with this," Jordan said. "I've gained a whole new respect for people who have had to do this with their loved ones, and through this process, I've learned that there are measures that you can take to manage your own personal risk and identify the warning signs in others."
Elsewhere on the squad, DaVanna – a rookie on this year's team – will twirl her rally towel on Sunday in remembrance of her grandmother, who passed away due to lung cancer in August.
"I just wanted to honor the journey that she went through," DaVanna said. "She fought hard, and we miss her all the time."
The leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, lung cancer can occur in both smokers and those who don't smoke, such as DaVanna's grandmother. As with any form of cancer, early detection is the key.
"I wanted to use this platform to bring awareness to the things that we might not want to think about," DaVanna said. "You never want small things to turn into big things when they could have been prevented."
Cooper, another Cheerleader, will use her platform on Sunday to create awareness for the foster care system. Cooper is a middle school teacher when she's not cheering at GEHA Field at Arrowhead, providing her with an in-person look at the young lives that the foster care system touches.
"Being a teacher, I get to interact with a lot of different people who come from all kinds of backgrounds, and as I've gotten to know a handful of students in the foster care system, I've seen the impact that it can have on them," Cooper said. "The more I've learned about it, the more I think it isn't being talked about enough."
The Kansas Department for Children and Families defines foster care services as those enacted when the court has deemed that a child's parents are not equipped to meet their needs. Additionally, many children in the foster care system are victims of abuse and require specified care.
Varying reports indicate that more than 500,000 children pass through the United States' foster care system in a given year, demonstrating a very real situation that's impacting every corner of our country. In many ways, these young people are faced with a crossroads in their lives at a vulnerable time, and they need our support.
"There are so many things that you can do to help," Cooper said. "I think we all assume that you have to be a foster parent, and yes, that's super important, but there are so many other ways that you can support the foster care system."
It's all to say that each piece of cloth represents something different, from Cooper's advocacy for foster kids to the various medical conditions recognized by Brooke, Jordan and DaVanna, but collectively, these towels – and the individuals wielding them – represent the hope of a better tomorrow.