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The story of Empire....and why I am so thankful for so many of you.

For those of you who have been with Empire for several years may have read this story before, some of you several times. However, it is the thread that has sewn our story together and is vital enough for those who have joined us over the year to read, and for all to read again as you, our customers, are the reason we have so much to be thankful for this season.

Before I tell you how thankful I am for each of you and your families for walking this journey of Empire's fifth year in business together, I feel it is important to tell you why I am thankful for you.

Few, if any, knew the story of why Empire began when we first opened. For you to truly understand my gratitude, you must understand the "why" in who we are and why we even became a gym.

As a little girl, I choose my first Halloween costume at the age of 2 - you guessed it....a cheerleader. I cried for 45 minutes straight after we left my pom-poms at my Aunt Net's house - so hard that my mom literally turned around and drove 45 minutes one way back to get them.

And so began my passion for the world of Cheerleading. My story is similar to many young girls. I grew up in Bryant. Began tumbling at young age. Tried out for my first cheer team - the Bryant Oilers - when I was ten with Coach Pam Jones. I cheered for the Bryant Mustangs, the Bryant Hornets, Cheer Central Braves, and then finally concluded my career as an Arkansas Razorback Cheerleader...literally my dream come true.

Each team, each squad, was unique and brought different challenges. But one thing that never changed - one constant in my journey - was my mother. She endured endless hours upon hours of sitting in the stands, sitting through tumbling classes, showing up at competitions, games, practices, she made drop-offs and pick-ups, she did fundraising....whatever it took (like so many of you). She was there. She loved me. She supported me. And through it all, she was so proud of me.

In September (2013), I lost my mother. She left this world far too early, as it became much too difficult for her to endure. She will never meet my sweet baby boy Crew, never get to meet all of you, and she will never see Empire. But I see her in each of you. Every time you sneak a video of your daughter tumbling. Each time you eagerly slide to the side of the mat to capture a picture. I see her. I see the pride your child brings to you. I see the endless time, money, and effort you are willing to dedicate to their success.

My world would have never been the same without my mother in it. Some girls never get a Mommy like mine. And Cheerleading became so much more than a sport to both of us. It was our "thing." And so when private lessons and cheer clinics overtook my life only four months after my mom left this Earth, I knew that it was her way of saying "Brooke, it is time." I had to make sure every little girl and boy in Central Arkansas could have an opportunity like mine - to learn from the best, to work hard, to succeed, and to make their parents proud.

Although I will not get to celebrate this holiday season - nor any with my mother again, with your continued love and support of our program I will get to celebrate with all of you each and every year for years to come. I am thankful not only that you have chosen Empire for this journey with your child but I feel personally blessed to watch you and your child walk this journey together.

Cheerleading. Tumbling. Parkour. All are so much more than a sport or a hobby...what your child learns is beyond any skill or motion. But don't think for one minute, your love and support goes unnoticed to them. They will never forget what you daily give up for them to have an opportunity to do what they love!

I want wish each of you a blessed Holiday Season - and pray you get to hug and visit with each of your loved ones once again this year!!!

Thank you for choosing Empire and thank you for supporting your children. Their world will forever be changed because of it.

Brooke Originally composed, 11.26.2014.