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Cheerleader cancer-free, back on court

Veanna Pollard gets a hug from a Knoch cheerleading teammate following a halftime ceremony Tuesday celebrating the junior being cancer-free.

JEFFERSON TWP — In place of a halftime show, the Knoch High School cheerleaders celebrated one of their teammates defeating leukemia at the basketball game Tuesday night.

Veanna Pollard, a Knoch varsity cheerleader, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia two and a half years ago.

Now 16 years old and a cancer-free junior in high school, Veanna is back doing what she loves with the team who loves her.

Tuesday's game was the first time Veanna has been able to “stunt” since her diagnosis, and it was what she was most excited for.

“I forgot how much fun it was,” Veanna said. “It feels great.”

Veanna's parents, Patricia and Philip Pollard, said she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2019, after she fainted and was unable to see her dad standing in front of her.

“As a parent, you just know something isn't right,” Philip said.After arriving at the hospital, Veanna's blood level was dangerously low, and her family was informed that if she hadn't reached the hospital that night, she would not have woken up the following morning.Patricia said Veanna was diagnosed two days later, and had a port placed in the largest vein in her heart to assist chemotherapy. The port recently was removed, and this meant Veanna could begin cheering again.“She's been awesome,” Patricia said of her daughter. “She'd say, 'Mom, I don't know why you're worried, I'll be fine.'”Through all the hospital visits, Veanna and her family learned her blood type was B positive. The phrase 'B positive' was what Veanna said to her mom when she would cry.At the basketball game, 'B + for Veanna' was emblazoned on the Knoch cheerleaders' orange shirts, the color representative of leukemia.

“We found out that's my blood type and that's been my motto,” Veanna said.Knoch's cheer coach, Shelly Moretti, said the team was extremely sad when Veanna was diagnosed.“The best way to describe it would be devastation,” Moretti said. “Everyone was extremely sad. She's the most humble child on the face of the Earth.”Despite receiving cancer treatments, Veanna still was part of the team. Moretti said she bought the orange ribbon pins and handed them out to everyone imaginable at a football game two years ago for people to show their support for Veanna. That football game was an “orange out,” where attendees wore orange. Every coach and cheerleader at Knoch High School wore the pins throughout Veanna's cancer journey.“No one performed without them on,” Moretti said.Patricia said the football game dedication was only the start of the cheer squad's support of Veanna. They sent Veanna packages and letters in the hospital, and had driveby parties for her as well.At halftime Tuesday, the cheerleading team and coaches surrounded Veanna at center court while her story was read aloud.As it was announced that Veanna was cancer-free, a cheer went up.Each cheerleader stepped forward and placed their orange ribbon pin in a glass box in Veanna's hand, many with tears in their eyes and big smiles.One of Veanna's fellow cheerleaders, senior Nicole Critchlow, said she has known Veanna since they were young, and their families have been good friends for a long time. “It's amazing, seeing her beat cancer,” Nicole said tearfully. “I'm so proud of her.”Nicole said Veanna truly lives out her motto and brings much to the cheer squad. “She brings nothing but joy,” Nicole said. “This brings relief to us and to her family.”Veanna and her parents said thank you to everyone who has been with her through the journey.“It feels wonderful,” Philip said. “It's very emotional.”At the ceremony's conclusion, the crowd stood and applauded Veanna for her courage, as Moretti wrapped her in a big hug.The entire crowd, the basketball team and an orange-clad student section added to the excitement of the evening by cheering on Veanna and her bravery as she cheered for her team.

Knoch and Hampton cheerleaders surround Knoch’s Veanna Pollard in support during a halftime ceremony celebrating the junior defeating leukemia. photography by seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Veanna Pollard’s parents, Philip and Patricia Pollard, look on during a halftime ceremony Tuesday where the announcement was made that their daughter is now cancer-free.