Forget National Cookie Exchange Day. In San Diego County, Dec. 22 now means something much sweeter. The day has been recently named for a Carlsbad teen for her nearly 340 hours of volunteering.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 21 presented 17-year-old Tori Dondanville with a proclamation that Dec. 22 would be named in her honor countywide for her time volunteering as an assistant coach for the La Costa Canyon Pop Warner cheerleaders.
The proclamation for “Tori Dondanville Day” was presented to her at the end of a regular practice by Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, who Tori assists in coaching the team of girls, ages 8 to 10.
Tori, who has been on her school's varsity cheer squad for two years and has also dedicated 336 hours to the youth team during that time, said she was surprised to receive the honor.
"I had no clue," she said. "Kristin Gaspar just kind of whipped it out and started reading the proclamation, which was all about me. I was kind of just in shock and didn't even know this was possible."
Gaspar said she wanted to recognize Tori for her dedication to school and for her volunteer work.
In addition to coaching the youth team and cheering on the school's varsity team, Tori serves on LCC's yearbook staff and is a member of the Baking for a Cause club, which creates and brings baked goods to first responders. She has also been a member of her school's speech and debate team, has been dancing in a variety of genres since she was 4 and began practicing gymnastics when she was 6.
Tori, who has been cheerleading since she was 7, said she enjoys coaching the girls because she likes helping them see that hard work pays off.
Last month, the youth team placed fourth in the nation at a Pop Warner cheerleading championship competition in Florida, Tori said. In the past, the team did not place within the top 5. They are currently preparing for a competition in Las Vegas later this month.
"I love being able to be creative and choreograph routines for these girls," Tori said. "I enjoy watching them not only improve their skills on the mat but also become better people. I feel like I'm really making a change in their lives."
In a statement, Gaspar referred to Tori as "one of the best role models a young woman could have."
"She’s driven, talented, intelligent and focused," Gaspar said. "She’s also managing to juggle the pressures of being a high performing student, coach, volunteer and athlete. Not a day goes by that I don't feel grateful to coach alongside Tori and have her serve as a positive influence to the entire squad."