Local baton twirler LaVeda Chan-Payne practices twirling while marching. (Wendy Alexander)
Inspired by her godmother, who was also a baton twirler, LaVeda Chan-Payne began twirling at the age of 5.
Now her family is raising $3,500 to fund her competition in Open Women’s Juv Solo and Open Women’s Juv Artistic Twirl events in the Pan Pacific games this January.
Initially LaVeda, a 6th grader at Ezekiel Tafoyo Alvarado Academy in Madera, participated in baton twirling simply as a fun way to pass the time.
“When LaVeda was just starting out with baton twirling, we entered her in the Madera Parade and the Chowchilla Parade. Back then she would maybe just do one little twirl with her hand, but it was something enjoyable for her to do and they’re just so cute at that age,” said Melissa Payne, LaVeda’s mother.
It was upon LaVeda’s completion of the first grade that someone first took notice of her gift. “We had a woman approach us and ask, ‘have you ever thought about competition?’ We hadn’t up until that point but that’s when we first considered it,” said Payne.
Once LaVeda realized she was winning trophies, she decided she wanted to twirl professionally. Two years ago, LaVeda began twirling competitively under the professional guidance of Fresno State feature twirler Jessica Massie, USTA Coach, international competitor, and Fresno State Feature Twirler.
“LaVeda is really stepping up and learning how to apply herself and work hard toward her goals of going to her first international competition in Stockton at the Pan Pacific games,” said Massie. “She has great talent and if she continues to apply herself like I have seen over the past year, I have great hopes for her competitive career.”
LaVeda is 10, and won’t be 11 until November. However, due to competition rules she must compete as an 11-year-old.
She has participated in parades throughout the Central Valley, and won numerous trophies and ribbons.
At the California State competition, she placed fifth in solo, second in dance twirl beginning and intermediate, first in military march intermediate, and second in these foundation events: intermediate basic, beginning military, beginning and intermediate parade, and beginning and intermediate presentation.
She participated in Twirl Tacular (NBTA) National Baton Twirling Association, Los Angeles, Hall of Fame solo champ last June and also took part in the Summer Extravaganza performance at Disneyland in July.
Baton Twirling has taught the 10-year-old to be disciplined and goal oriented.
Her aspirations for her future include to one day be a feature twirler for Fresno State, to twirl in front of the Eifel Tower in Paris, France, to travel to different countries twirling baton, to be cheer captain, to receive a doctorate and be called Dr. LaVeda Chan-Payne, to win a pair partner with her niece Ciaira, and to be valedictorian.
LaVeda’s other hobbies include Camp Fire, ballet, Break the Barriers (contemporary dance), ballet, and watching the Disney Channel. She loves school, enjoys reading, and says her favorite subject is Language Arts.
Performing has also helped build LaVeda’s confidence.
“Cheerleading has definitely helped me get over my shyness,” said LaVeda. “Ever since I joined cheer I wasn’t shy anymore because in cheer you have to be loud, so that helped me feel more comfortable being outspoken in other situations too.”
To compete internationally in January will cost LaVeda’s family $3,500. This cost includes a mandatory one-week stay in the Olympic Village, LaVeda’s USA outfit for parade of nations, and a new competition outfit, which normally runs around $300.
For information on donating, Robert or Melissa Payne can be contacted at 536-1679.