Twins Meghan and Morgan Spoonhour have been twirling since they were 8, and their love for the sport has stayed with them since.
The Spoonhour sisters participated in many state- and national-level twirling competitions and performed alongside their high school band. Through their travels and competitions, the two were introduced to the coach of the UF Gatorettes twirling team, June Stoeber. They developed a strong connection with the Gatorettes and Stoeber, which ultimately led them to study at UF.
"June makes them be adults," said Shelly Spoonhour, the mother of Meghan and Morgan. "There is no more depending on your parents to do things."
The twins' experience in UF Gator Marching Band is quite different than high school, according to their mother. She said Director of the Gator Band Jay Watkins is more invested in the work of the twirlers.
"He wants them to have a good performance," Shelly Spoonhour said. "He wants them to smile. He wants them to be excited and entertained. I just think that’s great that they have that kind of support and encouragement."
The twins' father, Patrick Spoonhour, said his daughters' experience as twirlers for the Gatorettes, who most recently won their 8th National Collegiate Twirling Championship, has presented opportunities to grow as team players and leaders. He said Watkins sets the standard and expectations for the team with little room to waver.
"You need to meet this expectation every week or you’re going to be on the sidelines watching," Patrick Spoonhour said. "Both of our girls have experienced that, and they know there’s no question of what is expected of you."
But while the Gatorettes’ great coach and system of teamwork came as no surprise to the Spoonhours, the cost of the team’s gear and custom-made costumes did.
The Gatorettes require different sets of equipment than most of the band members. Instead of the white, orange and blue coat and a blue shako topped with a feather plume, the Gatorettes are adorned with costumes covered in rhinestones, unique practice uniforms, hats and boots. Their batons, customized duffle bags, and even their temporary Gator tattooes they wear on their cheeks add to the cost.
Additionally, the costumes are uniquely fitted to each twirler. With the amount of physical activity required, sharing costumes from year to year among generations of members is not ideal.
“They’re unique for each person, and that’s part of the reason for the expense and why you have to pay for it… they can’t be recycled and reused,” Patrick Spoonhour said.
So the Spoonhours decided to start a fund to support the Gatorettes. The parents made an initial donation to cover significant costs of the team’s costumes, but they are hopeful this fund will inspire others to contribute and expand the initiative in the future.
"You know it is not necessarily about throwing a baton," Patrick Spoonhour said. "It’s about being an ambassador and representative of the school and portraying a positive image of Florida as much as it is being a leader."
The Spoonhours investment will support future generations of Gatorettes. To contribute to the Gatorettes Support Fund, click here.