‘Everyone is able to shine.’ Squad of Special Needs Cheerleaders Goes to World Competition in Florida

A local cheerleading team is on its way to a world cheerleading competition.

The Special Forces Cheerleading Squad is unlike any other because the team is made up of student athletes with varying special needs. But that doesn’t stop them from achieving their goals and shooting high.

The Special Forces Cheerleading Squad trains at Cheer Dream Xplosion, a gym in Matawan. Lucia Millan is the director and owner and opened the gym eight years ago after her own daughter’s battle with scoliosis cut her dream of competitive cheer short.

Millan wanted to give differently abled athletes a platform.

“They just want to be like all the other cheerleaders, and they want to be able to do the same thing. And for us to be able to give that to them, and give them a home … just make them feel like they’re apart of who we are, not different in any way,” Millan said.

The team not only gives them a platform for athletics, but it also helps with other life skills, like working as a team and making friends.

The age of the athletes varies from 8 to 21. They also have varying special needs. Millan says this is the first season the athletes are independent – working on their own without help.

The squad is now on its way to Florida to compete in The CheerAbilities – Elite Division.

Special Forces is the first special needs cheer squad selected from Central Jersey to compete in the CheerAbilities competition, which gives student athletes with disabilities a platform to perform in an environment of high expectations with competitive standards.

“Everyone is capable of shining in their own way and I think this gives them a platform to shine where in life, they might not, or the average person might say you can’t do it or look down on them, ” said head coach Brooke Palle.

The team leaves for Florida at the end of April. They have a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.

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