Making a difference one cheer at a time
Cumberland County -- A cheerleading program is making a difference for a group of young people who wouldn't normally be able to cheer.
The Inspiration Squad is part of the group Cheer Tyme. It is made up of 21 athletes. Fifteen of them have intellectual disabilities.
But in the rest of this story, I won't be using the word "disabilities" again, because we're focusing on the abilities of these amazing athletes.
Cheer Tyme Inspiration is so good, they earned a bid to perform in the USASF World Championships. For cheerleaders, it's essentially the Super Bowl of competitive cheerleading.
Kim Braasch and her husband co-own Cheer Tyme which is housed at Twin Ponds West, a family rec center in Mechanicsburg.
Braasch says this is the first year special needs squads have been invited to compete in worlds.
It's an exciting opportunity for 18-year-old Olivia Freese who's on the Inspiration squad. "Cheering is my life! I love to jump, cheer and dance," she said.
Twenty-six squads from around the country submitted their performance videos for the competition and Inspiration won fourth place, enough to earn the bid to Disney World next weekend.
The cheerleaders say they couldn't have come this far without the help of their "buddies."
"I wouldn't have learned a backflip if it wasn't for Tyler," said cheerleader Katie Sheppard. "This is like a dream come true! I mean - sorry about to cry - happy tears of joy. I mean, this means a lot even though we are special needs. To get to do this, I’m so happy."
But the buddies, like Tyler Braasch, get just as much out of the partnership as the cheerleaders.
"It really means the world just knowing that I made this impact on someone's life," said Braasch. "I'm just really happy to do it."
It means a lot for Lisa Freese to see her daughter enjoying a typical experience for a teenager.
"She's got friends here, it helps with her communication skills that helps, you know, to be part of something and work together. As a parent, it warms my heart to see that. I just wish more people could experience this," Freese said.
Inspiration will perform on Saturday as Cheer Tyme hosts a competition at Twin Ponds West.
The squad will then head to the World Cheerleading Championships next weekend in Orlando, Florida!