Inclusive Cheer Squad Makes Debut in Davenport - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Inclusive Cheer Squad Makes Debut in Davenport

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It started in our area as a way for teens to include special needs students in cheerleading and dance programs. And the Sparkle Effect has gone national, but it's also come home.

We first met the Sparkles back in 2009, kids with special needs cheering alongside the Pleasant Valley Spartans. The Spartan Sparkles even went to Chicago to be on the Oprah show. Since then, the Sparkle Effect has been spreading. There are more than 100 inclusive squads across the country. Eight of them are in our area. One of them made a debut Thursday night.

It came over the loudspeaker, "We want to welcome the debut of the Assumption Angels." It's a debut a lot of girls had been waiting for, actually jumping up and down with excitement to be here. The Assumption Angels were cheering on their team and getting some cheers of their own.

This sport is something some parents thought might not happen for their special needs kids. Pam Bennett tells us, "I was very skeptical at first because I thought, I don't know if Madeleine will be able to do that, or if she'll even want to." But Maddie was having a blast. So was Izzie Robbins. And as for Sarah Coughlin, when her mom asked if she liked cheering for her brother, the answer was a resounding yes.

This squad was assembled by other Assumption Knights, who wanted to include their friends little sisters. Rachel Clay is one of the girls who spear-headed the effort. "We wanted them to come and cheer for us. We wanted them to cheer for their brothers, for their siblings, for their community."

Some had never cheered before. Others were with other squads. But their parents call this coming home. Sarah's mom Claire says, "Her brother and sister went to Assumption. Her father went to Assumption. Her grandparents were at the schools that became Assumption. So she's very much aware that this is her community and her family."

One that accepts all. These girls come to practices when they can, and cheer as often as they are able at home games. Inspiring the crowd, and their teammates and coach. Assumption Coach Lisa Simpson says, "The Angels, I think, have brought such joy to us. They enjoy themselves so much and they smile and they're so happy to be there. And it's really made just a wonderful experience for everyone." One she says will continue as long as there are students who want to cheer.

The angels performed at the Assumption - North Scott game. North Scott also has an inclusive squad.  The Lancer Lights include one girl and two boys.  And there are squads in several other Davenport schools, as well as in Bettendorf, LeClaire and Sterling.

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