"Special" cheer team proves dreams do come true | News
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE)- Cheerleaders are known for their big smiles and booming voices.
But for one squad, the most important this is that they're on the court at all.
At halftime of the game at Harrison on Friday night, a group of young ladies will perform a cheer and dance routine they've been working on for a long time.
This is so exciting because these girls aren't your average cheerleaders.
Anyone who knows her, will tell you Kenzie Hartz is pretty special.
Hartz was born with down syndrome and a major heart problem. So when she got sick as a baby, it caused brain damage.
Now, 10 years later, Hartz is healthy and happy. She can't talk, but she can cheer.
Sixteen girls, ages 8 to 18 all dealing with their own challenges.
"On a day to day basis, some of the girls will struggle with depth perception or motor planning, short-term memory, long-term memory, balance," says Karen Shields, the coach to these girls.
Alongside her sisters, Shields, Kendra Scheller and Katie created the spirit cheer team 4 years ago.
It's a big undertaking but the coaches say they saw a need in the community.
"I heard this team and I wanted to do it," says Shelby, one of the cheerleaders.
Another girl from the team, Shelby, tells us "Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a cheerleader."
And so every week, the girls get a little better and learn a little more.
"Self confidence, self esteem, those are all the things that we really like, that's our ultimate goal for them and for them to love cheerleading and that's why we're all here, because we love it so much," Scheller tells us.
"It doesn't matter how bad of a day I've had or anything, I leave here in a good mood and I leave here smiling just because of these girls."
The smiles only get bigger, when the real show begins.
Watching her daughter, wowing hundreds or even thousands of fans.
It's something Kenzi's mom, Keri Hartz, never expected to see.
"When you have a child with special needs, you start having different dreams and so this is a dream that I didn't ever even knew would come true," says Keri.
Now that is has, there's an awful lot of pride on the sidelines, in the stands, and maybe there's a lesson that goes much deeper than a dance routine.
"I hope that every time they do a performance, maybe we're changing one person's attitude about people with disability if they see the performance," says Keri.
So now you see Kenzi Hartz is special and so is the rest of her spirit cheer team.
Before the varsity game, the special Olympic youth athletes will play a quick game, the spirit cheer team will stand on the sidelines as the varsity team comes onto the court and then they'll perform at halftime.
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