By Rainey Biddle
The Sparkle Cheerleading group is showing everyone that disabilities aren’t hindrances. The team was founded by WCHS cheerleaders and allows young girls with disabilities to be involved in a cheer team and perform at various events, such as basketball games.
For 15 year old sophomore, Emma Stumpf, who suffers from suprasellar juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma, the Sparkle Team played a role in shaping the person she is today. Emma was diagnosed with her condition at the young age of seven. With Stumpf’s impairment, she suffers from short term memory loss, headaches, dizzy spells, and vision loss. Although with these symptoms she has had a hard time, she never lets it get in the way of her aspirations in life. She always finds a way around it, and encourages other to do the same.
“Pursue their dreams and do what they like to do,” Stumpf said.
The Sparkle Cheer Team is not only proving the prejudice against the girls’ abilites wrong, but it is also giving the Sparkle cheerleaders a new type of confidence.
Special needs teacher Amy Bennett explained that she has seen an increase in the in girls’ confidence since the start of the team.
“They have gained so much self esteem by being apart of this group,” Bennett said.
Not only are the girls’ teachers seeing the confidence shift in their lives, but they are also seeing it for themselves.
Gaining confidence can be difficult when insecurity has been planted in your life for so long, but the girls push to alter their perspectives. Stumpf stated that she has gained “a whole bunch” of confidence since the start of the team. Hopefully this newly found confidence sticks around a long time.
Senior cheerleader Sadie Welch not only helps the Sparkle Team, but she is also a founder alongside senior cheerleader Avery Bowman.
Bowman strongly believes that disabilities are not a limitation.
Her goal is for the Sparkle Team to expose that reality to other people.
“Their disabilities are not a barrier to them. They make them into who they are; they make the team the ‘Sparkle’ team, and I believe they make them shine,” Welch said.
Welch has been working with the girls through Best Buddies for four years.
Best Buddies is what sparked her interest in helping the girls reach their full potential.
She is a believer that each girl brings her own unique individuality that makes the team whole.
“The reason I started this team is because I knew these girls through Best Buddies and I noticed they had all types of strong characteristics that got overlooked by other peers in the hallways. I knew if they had the chance to shine, they would be the brightest in the school. By giving them the opportunity to cheer at Varsity games where they don’t get to just help lead the school, but also help lead the student body. Their strong characteristics get to shine for others to see too,” Welch said.
This team has allowed the girls to grow as people and athletes. Students of the team encourage others to follow their dreams just as they have done.
The Sparkle Team has been a positive experience for all of the students involved as they continue to erase the stigma behind disabilities.