"“ Who says that physical and developmental disabilities should prevent young women with special needs from picking up a pair of pom poms
Despite being confined to a wheelchair, 17 year-old Brooke-Lynn Hayes always had dreams of cheerleading.
Her mother, Donna, comments, "It was always her [daughter's] dream to have be a cheerleader
, and she could not understand why she couldn't be."
...And Competitive Gym Athletics gym owners couldn't agree more. Many of the founders, themselves, had family members with special needs and wanted to create an all-inclusive cheerleading program that would allow their loved ones to participate.
Lacking any formal guidelines for constructing this unique program, Justin McKeever, a Legacy Xtreme Panthers All-Star Cheerleader, looked to Donna Hayes, wheelchair-bound Brooke-Lynn's mother, for advice.
The pairing couldn't have been more perfect. The mother, Hayes, had already started baseball and bowling leagues for special-needs young adults in her area and was interested in finding a cheerleading program that would embrace her daughter, Brooke-Lynn's, needs.
With that, Legacy Xtreme "“along with the help of Donna Hayes- launched their one-of-a-kind cheerleading program in May 2009.
Legacy Xtreme's approach was radically different from other athletic programs that attempted to accommodate special-needs youths. The most notable difference, perhaps, was the founders' decision to add special-needs participants to one of their seven all-star cheerleading teams, rather than creating a team constructed around this group of participants.
"The all-star [cheerleader] helps her buddy to learn choreography, spots them, and stays with the same buddy all year, which helps with friendships," says cheer mom, Donna Hayes.
According to Fox News, the program has been remarkably successful in giving many of these young adults an opportunity to perform for an audience and forge friendships with other young adults, they may have otherwise never interacted with.
In the Panthers' program there is no preferential treatment for any of their cheerleaders, "˜special needs' or not.
"The reason for any child to do all-star cheerleading is that it helps them learn confidence through dedication, hard work, sportsmanship, and gives them the ability to make everlasting friendships," says All-Star cheerleading "˜buddy' Justin McKeever.