A group of 15 cheerleaders with special needs from Florida made their way to DC on Friday to compete in “The Battle at the Capitol.”
It’s a competition for athletes with special needs from all over the country. The cheerleaders are fighting for the title, but it’s not always about the win.
The “Rockets with RCA Team Shine” made the long, difficult journey from Jacksonville, but you won’t hear them complaining.
Some are wheelchair bound, others have autism or down syndrome, all are very different. “We make a special spotlight for each kid,” says the coach, Lindsay. “Emily in the wheelchair does a handstand, Kiki gets out, everyone does something special.”
But they’re all on the same team. “They’re just ecstatic to be a part of this,” says Misty Turner, another coach. To be a part of anything, really.
“They have a place in this world, we give them that place to belong,” says choreographer, Caitlin Mills.
In return, the cheerleaders teach a few lessons of their own: Always believe in yourself. “To see them push themselves when they think they can’t do something, they do it anyway and they usually achieve it,” says Turner.
“I win tonight!” Says Paris, a cheerleader.
Dance like no one is watching, whether you’re in practice, on stage or in front of the Washington Monument. Which is exactly what the team did when they performed stunts on the National Mall.
Love unconditionally. “I love you Carly!” One cheerleader said to another.
Because everyone is fighting their own battle. “Every day we have hardships we have to deal with, every time I see them they uplift my day,” says Mills. “That rubs off on anyone they come in contact with.”
And when all else fails, just be happy. “It’s fun!” Said another cheerleader as she grabbed the mic.
“No matter what they do when they get out there, it’s going to be their best,” says Turner. “When they come off the floor it’s like they won the Super Bowl, the Olympics, everything all in one.”
Friday night’s competition isn’t about winning, but don’t underestimate this team, because they don’t underestimate themselves. “We are going to hit all our stunts and tumbling,” says Jenna optimistically.
“Our motto is together we shine,” says Coach Lindsay.
And that’s exactly what they’ll do.
The group is always raising money for competitions and the program, if you’d like to donate, click here.
Like Team Shine’s Facebook page here.