National recognition given to S.C. cheerleading squad with special needs teammates

south carolina cheerleaders
Courtesy: WSPA

HENDERSONVLLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A cheerleading squad in Hendersonville is receiving national recognition – and it’s not just for the competitions they win.

The athletes of Hope Elite are changing lives and opinions.

“We’re made up of individuals with and without intellectual disabilities,” Head coach Paige Allen said.

This group does everything other teams do – and more. The cheers, dances, and stunts are all choreographed to fit the needs of each athlete, even those in wheelchairs.

“We just do it like kind of like any other team,” said member Vanesa Rodriguez. “It’s kind of different. It’s a lot of fun,”

Denise Walden is an assistant coach.

“We’re kind of groundbreakers,” Walden explained. “We even had someone come in to do a stunt camp for us, and we were showing her some of the things that we did and she was like, oh, okay, well I didn’t know you could do that with wheelchairs.”

This group’s determination helped the team win the state championship at the Special Olympics this year. At the Spirit of Hope Competition in Charlotte, they were named National Champions.

“We’re all jumping up and down and crying it was incredible,” remembered Allen.

Allen says the real victory isn’t about trophies or medals.

“I hope that by seeing us get out there and do things, just like everybody else, that they see us. Just as we’re human, you’re human. We’re human. We’re unique. That’s the way God made us.”

This year will be their largest team yet, with 15 members. It’s open to any age and any disability.

For more information on Hope Elite, click here.

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