Lifting Spirits: A Special Needs Cheer Team
Jennifer and Brad Wall of Yadkinville have been involved with Carolina Spirit Athletics All-star Cheer and Tumble gym for more than four years with their three daughters ages 4, 11 and 14. After attending several competitions where they saw cheerleading teams for kids with special needs, they decided they wanted to start something similar in the Triad.
"I think we easily forget how fortunate we are, and to be able to help make someone else feel special is very fulfilling," Jennifer Wall says.
Carolina Spirit Athletics Special Needs Team, known as the Glitz Girls, was founded in September 2011 with the partnership of The Wall Foundation. The mission of The Wall Foundation is to bring common communities together to enhance the lives of children with special needs through sports.
The Glitz Girls team consists of nine girls ranging from 11 to 18 years old from the Winston-Salem area and who all have special needs, some with Down syndrome and some with other developmental challenges. Several girls attend Carter High School, where they also compete as a high-school team as well as through Special Olympics. The team practices once a week on Saturday mornings. The team's first competition was in Charlotte in January at the Spirit of Hope Competition, where they received first place. They competed in three more out-of-town competitions with their last at the end of March in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Wall says since being involved with the special needs team, she has seen improvements in the girls' motor skills, memory work (such as with learning routines) and friendships with each other as well as relationships with the cheer helpers. "The cheer helpers are kids who have given up almost every Saturday morning to come be a part of helping these girls share their passion for cheerleading," Wall says. "Without the cheer helpers, the program would not be as successful as it has been. And the relationships that have developed between the cheer helpers and the girls on the team are priceless."
The Glitz Girls have learned how to tumble and almost all can now do a forward roll, and they are working on learning cartwheels so that hopefully next year they can incorporate a little more difficulty into the cheer routines. Wall says they try to limit the number of cheer helpers that actually take the floor with the girls at competitions because they want them to do as much as possible by themselves. If someone is not able to make a competition, a helper can step in and take their place, but most all of the stunts and pyramids are done solely by the team members. "All the weekly effort is nothing when you see the pride and sense of accomplishment when our Glitz Girls get finished with a routine at a competition," Wall adds.
Wall says they would love for the special needs team at Carolina Spirit Athletics to double in size for the next season. Spots are open to all ages, male and female for this competition team. They will offer classes on Saturdays in April 2012 to introduce participants to the special needs cheer program and will enroll new members beginning in May for the 2012-2013 cheer season.
For more information about Carolina Spirit Athletics All-Star Cheer Program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.