Special cheerleaders learn to bring it on

 Messenger photos by Dedra Cordle
 Cheerleader Maddie gets the honors of being on top of the mini-pyramid while cheerleader volunteers look on. She is a special needs cheerleader for the Grove City Cheer Center.
 The Super Shining Stars of the Grove City Cheer Center goof off after practice is over.

It seems that anything with the word star in it is destined to be a big hit. Now the Grove City Cheer Center has their own "Super Shining Stars."

Every Monday at 6:30, the group of very special cheerleaders come together to practice for their unveiling on Dec. 1 at the Columbus Convention Center.

You probably will not be dazzled with their high-flying acrobatics, mainly because that is not in their routine, but you will be blown away by what they possess in excess – their spirit.

"They are so encouraging and so supportive of each other," said Jalene Watkins. "They would never dream to bicker with each other."

Watkins, along with John Black coaches the Super Shining Stars, a team of approximately 13 children who each have special needs.

"We have kids here that have Down’s syndrome, autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy and a few who have ADD or ADHD," said Black.

Despite their disabilities, each cheerleader has a vital role to play in their upcoming performance. Some hold signs, others do tumble passes, and the smallest ones get to be on top of a mini-pyramid.

"She loves this class," said Darcy Bretz referring to her 12-year-old daughter Miranda. "It’s the only day of the week she really remembers."

Ideas often get started from inspiration, which is what lead to the induction of this special needs class at the Cheer Center. One day Tyler Thompson, who has Down’s syndrome, watched his sister cheer at the gym and decided he wanted to do the same thing. His mother talked to the Pam Puckett, the owner of the center to discuss having a class just for children with disabilities.

"We thought it was a great idea and everyone jumped on it," said Puckett.

That was in early March of this year, and since then everyone involved has been giving it their all for each member in the class.

"It’s great that they take their time to teach the kids with special needs something like this," Bretz said. "It takes a lot of hard work but everyone seems to enjoy it."

That enjoyment was noticeable on every single participants face during their hour-long practice. Every face was lit with wide smiles and their attitudes were agreeable and studious, wanting to get the steps right and show them off.

Each child signed up for the class (everyone is accepted) for their own reasons. Miranda has always wanted to be a cheerleader and Tyler wanted to join because he "likes to have fun and likes the girls."

However, it is the grown-ups who take away a different feeling while helping or coaching them.

"This one hour puts my whole life into perspective," said Black. "It makes you appreciate what you have and to be thankful for everything you’ve been blessed with."

It seems that stars abound not only in Hollywood or in the heavens, but at the special needs class at the Grove City Cheer Center too.

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