JOPLIN, Mo. — A couple of Joplin cheerleaders have something extra to be thankful for this holiday.

“I’m going to Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, well, I’m going to be part of a parade with all the other All-Americans, and we’re going to dance and march and perform a routine for the Thanksgiving Day Parade,” said Lola Matthiesen, Joplin NMS cheerleader.

It’s an understatement to say Joplin 7th grader Lola Matthiesen is excited.

She and South Middle School 8th grader Ali Landes will be cheering in one of the oldest Thanksgiving Day Parades in the nation.

“It’s very exciting. It’s a huge honor for us, you know, just to be able to put our name out there and represent our school in such an awesome way. We are so proud of both the cheerleaders that are going to be watching,” said Laurel Cook, Joplin M.S. cheer coach.

Middle school cheerleading coaches Laurel Cook and Riley Skaggs say this is an invaluable experience for Lola and Ali – who is already on her way to the parade.

“I personally got to go and do a couple of these events, one through UCA. I got to march in the Houston Thanksgiving Day Parade when I was in eighth grade. So I’m super excited that they get to have this experience as well,” said Riley Skaggs, Joplin SMS cheer coach.

They qualified for the parade through the Universal Cheerleaders Association.

UCA expects to have 500 cheerleaders from around the country at the parade.

“I would love for them to tell the rest of their teammates what kind of experience they got while they were there. And if they learned anything new. And then they could bring that back to the squad and teach their teammates as well,” said Skaggs.

Lola already knows it’s something she’ll never forget.

“I’m very thankful for my coaches because I couldn’t do this without them. I’m also very thankful for my teammates because they cheer me on. And I wish that they could all come with me because they’re very supportive. And also thankful for my family,” said Matthiesen.