Three cheers for the return of Miami Beach Pride. When the venerable party returns this weekend, Sept. 17-19, a new group will have the crowd cheering: Cheer Fort Lauderdale.

The organization started over the summer with the goal of creating a fun group for people who love cheerleading and raising money for local charities.

“I wanted to find a way to give back,” Cheer founder Aleksandr Dissan says. “What better way to give back? So I decided to create this organization.” When the group held its first practice in July, Dissan was hoping for about 10 people to show up. He was surprised when about 30 men and women came out to cheer on the effort. “I'm still in shock. I cannot believe we have so many members. We exploded so fast. Everyone wants to work with us.”

Dissan started a similar group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a few years ago and raised thousands of dollars. He and his husband moved to South Florida just before the pandemic, keeping them from exploring their new neighborhood. He found out he wasn’t the only one with pent-up energy. “I think it was actually the pandemic that may have helped, because we grew so fast. I incorporated on June first and then I started sending out flyers and posting pictures online and all over social media.”

The group ranges from people in their 20s to those nearing 50 as well as some non-binary members. “They're amazing! We're happy to have all ages because I want an inclusive charity where you're not too old to get back [to cheering], and what a great way to meet new people, stay active, have some fun and do some good for the community.”

He grew up in Southern California, and was homeless for a time after being rejected by his family for being gay. While the group will vote on which specific charities to support, Dissan hopes Cheer will help homeless gay youths here. “I was kicked out of my house. I went through that struggle being homeless for a little bit, couch surfing and all. I feel like it's made me the person I am today. It's definitely helped make me a stronger person.”

In addition to Miami Beach Pride, Cheer plans to appear at Fort Lauderdale Pride in November and at Atlanta Pride. You can also look for them to be out and about holding fundraisers at local businesses. “We will be hosting happy hours and stuff. It's such a great experience when you're at the bar in your cheerleading uniform and people see you and you get their reactions.”

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