Cheerleading team includes kids with special needs

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - A Heartland cheerleading team is working to make kids feel special.

Parents say it can be a struggle for their child with special needs to only watch fun and games, from the sidelines. So, the cheer team is changing that.

Red hair bows, sparkly outfits, team huddles.

"All little girls love to put on that uniform, and be a cheerleader," said Cheer Mom Monica Edwards.

"Ellie has always wanted to be a cheerleader, she's practiced cheerleading since she was a little girl," said Cheer Mom Nickie MccAdams.

It's just like any other cheer squad, except this team has something special.

"It's just an opportunity that they have that they can just do what everyone does," said Athletes Plus Cheer Gym Owner Melanie Wissore.

This team is made up of girls with special needs.

"They see 'wow I can do something that other kids can do, nothing is stopping me, I am capable of doing anything'," said Cheer Coach Allison Turner.

"It's just a great opportunity for her, that she probably wouldn't ordinarily have," said Cheer Mom Melissa Baer.

Parents like MccAdams say the moves help her daughter with therapy outside of a doctor's office.

"This is exercise, and activities, getting her to move her muscles are hard to get her to typically do in therapy," said MccAdams.

While Baer says it's helped her daughter with self-esteem.

"[She] loves being a part of a team, makes her feel really special and important, and she really enjoys it," said Baer.

"I love to hear parents say that it's helped their confidence and that they look forward to coming," said Wissore.

The girls practice each Thursday, stunts, tumbling, and routines.

"With cheerleading everyone plays, nobody's sitting the bench, everybody gets to be a star," said Wissore.

And then, they take those routines to star in competition.

"I think it's very important because it's not just an individual sport, it's a team sport," said Turner.

"It's just a really great opportunity for her to do things that everybody else is doing," said MccAdams. "I know that Ellie's not going to ever be a professional cheerleader, I know that she's not going to be cheerleading for the Dallas Cowboys, I know she's not going to be doing those kind of things, so that was a struggle for my husband and I because we don't want to put her in any type of activity that she's not going to be able to excel at. But for Ellie, she wanted to do it, she doesn't care if she's a professional cheerleader, she wanted to do it, because it's what she wanted to do."

A team, that Wissore says has plenty of room to grow.

"I just hope more kids realize that it's out here and take advantage of the opportunity," said Wissore.

If you want to join in the cheer classes, contact Melanie Wissore at 573-803-0144 or email at

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