Spirit of Alabama: Cheerleaders train for Special Olympics
Stories about preconceived differences on the surface often end in the realization that there’s not much difference, after all.
This story is about young women who have been cheerleaders for most of their young lives. Now, this local group is teaming up with six Special Olympics participants in what’s called a Unified Cheer Squad.
Team coach Vicki Brown has been involved in Special Olympics for years.
She said working with cheerleaders and Special Olympians is a great learning experience. Unified cheerleading involves a team made up of young women with and without disabilities.
“I think we’re learning about diversity and acceptance and working together as a team,” Brown said. “Even though people may be different, we’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses and we can all learn from each other.”
The team has been working together for months in preparation for the first-ever Special Olympics Cheer Competition, happening the first week of June at Disney World in Orlando.
Campbell Colburn has been a cheerleader since elementary school. One of the 12 chosen for the team, she and her friends look out for Campbell’s sister and teammate Ella.
Campbell said the team works together to achieve their goal of winning the competition,
“I think there (are) some differences, but I don’t try to see them as differences and like to make sure everybody feels normal,” she said.
Amaria Bankhead, another long-time cheerleader, said the experience has taught her to focus on how we’re all alike instead of how we’re different.
“It’s just been really fun getting to know all the different girls,” she said. “They all have very different personalities and it’s just been fun getting to know them and just practicing these last couple eight months, so it’s been fun.”
We’ll be cheering this group on as they compete, and the friendships these girls are making will most certainly last a lifetime.
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