The Golden Valley High School amphitheater was filled Thursday night with people whose lives were touched by the late Grizzlies cheerleading coach Ed Santos. Current and former cheerleaders, parents, football players, family members and others were all in attendance for the candlelight vigil, which began at 7 p.m. It was a representation of the unity that Santos – who died on Wednesday morning at age 48 after suffering a stroke earlier in the week – sought to build in his life.
“Before Coach Ed came in, it was this whole cheer and dance rivalry where cheerleading is cheer, dance is dance. Who does everybody prefer more,” said 2015 GV grad and former dance team member Kimberly Rosales. “Eventually things started to change and people started to (see) cheer differently. … When Coach Ed came, he made it a whole big family and he would always dedicate not only his time to cheer but he would dedicate his time to the dance team as much as he could.” Santos was living proof that any goal can be achieved. “He showed me that this sport doesn’t have to be all feminine or the idea of being man or a woman or whatever you may be is just completely vague and anyone can do anything they want,” said John Guardado, Santos’ partner for nearly four years. Those who spoke at the open-mic vigil shared anecdotes of Santos’ larger-than-life personality and dedication to creating a positive atmosphere through the thing he loved most. “He wanted cheerleaders to have that respect for (others) … and because of that, I would say all people, respected them as well,” Guardado said. Services for Santos will be at Mission San Fernando Rey de España in Mission Hills at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.