Last year, we kept hearing about a competitive cheerleading team, called Arizona Heat, that had a division for girls with special needs that they call “Inferno”. I don’t believe that everything is preordained, but I do believe that some things are brought into your life and are meant to be. I think that cheer, for us, is turning out to be one of those things.
For Ari, Cheer is a time to enjoy a fun and “typical” activity with girls that may share some of her daily challenges. It is an opportunity to build friendships, such as with her (long lost) pal Felicity that she met when she was three. Her Occupational Therapist is one of her coaches, so she felt at ease from day one. Ari also gets worked out. She is having to challenge her body in ways that she simply wouldn’t otherwise in her daily routine.
Ari also gets a chance to wear a glittery uniform, dance like crazy to loud music, and be applauded by a huge audience. In other words, she gets to be a star. It goes without saying that this means the world to me. What surprised everyone was how much it meant to her.
Judging by the way she was completely beaming out there, this may have been close to, if not the happiest two minutes of her life to date. Of course I cried.
Because we had been bringing the whole family along to Ari’s cheer practices, Bella was hand picked by Tommy, the head coach at Arizona Heat (all of the competitive teams) for private coaching. He said that he saw something special in her, and that he also felt that he wanted to personally challenge himself as well as her to work around her limb difference.
Whatever he saw in her, as far as strength and skill goes, he is turning out to be right. Bella has surprised us at just how quickly she has been able to pick up new stunts. More importantly, though, her confidence about her body’s ability and athleticism has been gaining tremendously. We are humbled by what a generous and altruistic gift Tommy is giving our little girl. He is a phenomenal coach, and we couldn’t have been luckier to find him.
I have to admit that I never expected that my girls would develop a love of cheerleading, but life has surprised me yet again. Wherever their passions and joy in life take them, I will be right there.