CHICAGO (Fox 32 News) - The opportunity of a lifetime is coming for a special abilities cheer team in the western suburbs. They will be representing the United States in the "Olympics" of the cheerleading world.
The Iconic All-star Wildcat Special Needs Team has practiced in St. Charles for ten years, attending other competitions, that accommodate for teams with intellectual disabilities. In less than three weeks, the International Cheer Union's World Competition is taking place in Orlando, Florida.
"Cheerleaders dream to go to Disney, and to Worlds, that's what you strive for, so in the All Star world or even in the high school world they all want to get to Florida, that's the big one, and now we have that opportunity to do that," said the team's coach Kelly Roule. "I hope we're breaking barriers, I hope everybody sees they can do what everyone else can do, [and] gives them the opportunity."
A special agreement between the International Cheer Union, which is the governing body of cheerleading, and the Special Olympics created a new category at the world competition. The local team submitted a video of their performance, and were selected to compete, along with four other American special needs teams. They will be facing competitors from around the world.
"There's going to be a lot of fierce competitors, I just can't wait," said 18-year-old team member Sophia Spizzirri.
When asked what it means to qualify for the competition, Spizzirri said, "I feel great. It's a good opportunity. I just love it, and it really opens me up, so I can build a lot of confidence."
The team of 16 is all girls and one boy, ages 12 to 22. Assistant Coach Taylor Sitarz explained the team first learns their formations, and then adds dance moves.
"It takes more than just putting together a routine and teaching it to them, but taking their special skills and using that to their advantage," she said.
There is still one hurdle the team is currently facing and that is funding the trip. They are hoping to raise $20,000 to fly team members, coaches and family members to Florida.
"Financially, a special needs family has a lot more medical bills and different expenses. It is a costly trip," said Coach Roule.
The team has created a GoFundMe page to fundraise. You can check it out HERE!