Knoxville cheer team helps children with special needs open up

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One group of cheerleaders in Knoxville is working extra hard to reach their cheer goals. It is a team made up of children with special needs with a coach going the extra mile to help them give their all.

With each count and each pose the West Knox Shining Stars are achieving greatness.

“The purpose of our program is to never turn an athlete away,” said Coach Shrean Fawcett.

Fawcett leads the team. Each of the athletes with their own set of special needs, and each is taught the sky is the limit.

“I think you can bring something out in any athlete, and why not give every athlete the opportunity to have what they desire on the inside brought out,” Fawcett said.

Destinae Rader is making her dreams come true with every cartwheel.

“It was my dream and I take it seriously and it’s fun because Coach Shrean can teach you and if you’re having trouble she won’t let you down,” she said.

Her mom has noticed a big change in her and not just the cheer skills.

“She’s more active. She’s more talkative at school. She plays a lot more at school,” said Janey Rader.

The team practices once a week and have taken their routines to big stages. Last year they competed in Las Vegas.

“These Shining Stars, they went back to school and they were like ‘I got to perform in Vegas!’ One little girl wore her uniform to school for team day because she wanted to show all of her friends that she’s a cheerleader and this is her team, this is her family,” Fawcett said.

For the kids’ families, it is a relief to see them opening up.

“Here they get to explore and have the chance to meet new friends, other people that are just like them so they learn they are not alone,” David Tate said. They moved to Knoxville so five of their children could participate.

For many of the kids, it is a chance to do something they otherwise might not be able to do.

“I really like this because I have more friends here. I’m excited, and I don’t have to be judged,” Destinae said.

Everything is free of charge for the families. They rely on several fundraisers throughout the year.

If you would like your child to participate, you can call (865) 214-7077 or visit Champion Force of West Knox/Deane Hill on Facebook for more information.

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