Chloe’s passion for cheer came naturally as she’s always been described as a happy person that’s supportive of others. Phrases like “A ray of sunshine” and a “Breath of fresh air” are phrases commonly used to describe her by teachers, friends and community members that interact with Chloe on a regular basis.
Chloe’s mom and advocate, Jennifer, wants her to feel as included and have as many opportunities as possible. Neither Chloe’s middle school nor high school provided inclusive sports activities for her to participate in. She ran in the Special Olympics through a special recreation association, but her mom didn’t feel she was challenged in the program and therefore sought out other activities. Jennifer wanted Chloe to try cheering because it’s an activity that seems to embody all of her energy and character. When her high school was unwilling to provide an avenue to include her on the squad, her mom looked for alternatives.
Jennifer had no idea how lucky she was to become acquainted with Kelly and Allie Roule, a mother and daughter team that coach Cheer Alliance’s Wildcat squad! The Roules have coached the Wildcats for the past five years through the local gym Cheer Alliance. During her first conversation with Coach Kelly, one of the things she said is that she encourages the girls to, “Participate up to their ability level.” Each participant is assigned a junior coach that works with them on specific skills. Then the girls come together to practice their routine. The girls practice weekly, and sometimes extra practices are added before competition.
Recently, the Wildcats won second place at the Nation’s Choice competition. “These girls amaze me,” said Coach Kelly, “They know so much more than people give them credit for.” The Wildcats consist of 23 members, aged 3-22 with several different disabilities. Chloe is the only member with Williams syndrome. The program runs from September-April. The Illinois Wildcats participate in a sideline cheer at a football game and compete multiple times throughout the season.
Other opportunities are available in cheer across the nation. We have found The Sparkle Effect to be very helpful for finding schools and universities that house a special needs cheer program. In addition, the US All Star Federation is a governing body that establishes rules and regulations for cheer competitions and lists member gyms by state. Many gyms have special needs squads, if you contact them directly. Here is their website.
Cheer is now something that’s part of Chloe. It has enabled her to focus, achieve and motivates her to share the passion, joy and love of sports with everyone around her. “I want to be a cheerleader for the rest of my life.” Chloe says. Who knows? When it comes to Chloe, anything is possible!
For more information about Williams syndrome, visit www.wschanginglives.org