DENVER, Colo. — There will be no fans in the seats at MetLife Stadium when the Broncos take on the New York Jets — a reminder of the unique year the NFL is facing.
Back at home a limited number of fans were allowed inside for the most recent home game, but life at Empower Field at Mile High is far from normal for both the players and the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders.
"It's been an adjustment, but I think we are just grateful to be dancing and being with each other," cheerleader Gabriela Windey said.
On the first game of the season, the Broncos honored five of their cheerleaders — Hailey Jo DeBoer, Alexandria Giannini, Alex Mutschler, Katherine Sierra and Windey — as their 'Broncos Country Heroes' for their work off the field as healthcare workers. Giannini said working early on in the COVID-19 pandemic as a nurse practitioner of emergency medicine was not easy.
"It was really scary, it was very intimidating, kind of nerve wracking time, especially being in healthcare because we're having these patients come in, or these patients that we're seeing, and they're asking us questions and, unfortunately, we don't know the answers to them," Giannini said.
DeBoer, who's a physical therapist assistant in a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, echoed Giannini's sentiments on working with patients in a way she never has before.
"We've really been their family since they're so isolated from not just their families but also the other residents," DeBoer said. "We're just doing whatever we can in our setting to make them feel comfortable and try to find that joy and enlightenment in their day. That's been kind of the toughest part."
Even through the dark times, Katherine Sierra, a trauma and surgical charge nurse, said the group has found moments of light in their work.
"To be their nurse and to be their counselor and also kind of be their family during these difficult times is really something that they have been so appreciative of when they are not able to have their family close to them," Sierra said.
Sierra said volunteering with Broncos charities has brought joy as well. She partnered with UC Health to create messages on the sidewalk for patients and staff to see outside the window. Giannini also participated in the Denver Day of Service to create gift bags filled with clothes and necessities for new moms.
Between getting back on the field and connecting with fans at charity events, these women said they have a lot to be thankful for. And they're expecting a Broncos win against the Jets Thursday. But beyond game day, they want Broncos Country to stay healthy and happy.
"It's just important to take care of yourself physically, but also mentally as well," Mutschler said. "We will get through this and let's hope for a normal season next year, but we're going to embrace this season and make the most of it."
It’s a season of big sports events airing this fall on Denver7. Check out our upcoming schedule:
- Sept. 21: NFL Monday Night Football: Saints vs Raiders
- Sept. 29: MLB Wild Card Series
- Sept. 30: MLB Wild Card Series
- Sept. 30: NBA Finals Game 1 on Denver7
- Oct. 1: Broncos vs Jets on Denver7
- Oct. 1: MLB Wild Card Series (If needed)
- Oct. 2: NBA Finals Game 2 on Denver7
- Oct. 4: NBA Finals Game 3 on Denver7
- Oct. 6: NBA Finals Game 4 on Denver7
- Oct. 9: NBA Finals Game 5 on Denver7
- Oct. 11: NBA Finals Game 6 on Denver7
- Oct. 13: NBA Finals Game 7 on Denver7