Rock Island cheerleader defies the odds

A Rock Island High School cheerleader isn’t letting her disability stop her from doing what she loves.
Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 10:50 PM CDT
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ROCK ISLAND, Ill (KWQC) - A Rock Island High School cheerleader isn’t letting her disability stop her from doing what she loves.

Ceci Padilla was born with spina bifida, a condition in which her spinal cord didn’t fully develop, but she’s proving that you can do anything you put your mind to.

“She brings such a light to the team,” said Rock Island Head Cheer Coach Patricia Gallegos. “She’s always so positive no matter the circumstances.”

Padilla is a senior cheerleader at Rock Island High School, whose passion for the sport came from two of her best friends.

“They were like, Oh, hey, we’re gonna try out for the cheer team at Rocky because it was gonna be our freshman year,” said Padilla. “And they were like, you should try out too. And I’m like, I’ve never done cheer you guys have and they’re like, I want you to go. Then I said, Okay, I’ll try out for you guys. And then we each got on teams. And I was like, Okay, I like this.”

Her positive energy was a great addition to the team.

“I mean, she really just brings good energy to the team,” said Gallegos. “I think that’s the biggest thing. We could be going through something really tough and she’s always got a smile on her face.”

Her teammates couldn’t agree more.

“To me I feel like Ceci is no matter what you can always be positive and you can still be sharp and you can be one of the best on the team, said Rock Island Cheerleader Madelynn. “Whether you can do whatever you want.”

Since cheerleading is Padilla’s passion, her mom set up a go-fund me page to help raise funds for a new manual wheelchair.

“So the problem we’re just running into right now without that chair is getting this chair into the car when I like want to by myself,” said Padilla. “Because if I have this chair, I would have to use my accessible van 24/7, which I don’t really want to do. I want to like go in my friend’s cars and other people’s cars like everybody else would. So that would help a lot just to have more independence.”

She doesn’t plan to stop here. Her hopes are to continue cheering in college at St. Ambrose University.

“And after I graduate from there, I want to go to U of I and Iowa City,” said Padilla. “And one day I want to become a child life specialists to help teens and kids like me.”

Padilla says she is the first student athlete at Rock Island High School to participate in a sport with a mobile disability.

If you are interested in donating to help Padilla get her new wheelchair, click here.