Cheer team accommodates performers with disabilities

May 13, 2012 (JOLIET, Ill.)

Cheer Envy is one that offers this -- with a little bit more.

Located in Joliet, the Pride Team is practicing for upcoming events.

Last July, co-owner of Cheer Envy Daniela Valencia started this team. It includes girls with disabilities paired with cheerleaders without disabilities.

"We figured we would have one buddy per cheerleader," Valencia said. "And its works out really well because our buddies give them something to focus on so that they can learn their movement real well. They're watching them and they're learning and they're watching, you know, how they do their moves, their jumps, their tumbling.

"It's a great opportunity for the buddies also to learn about children with special needs."

Since the Pride Team started, they have done really well, winning several trophies and banners.

The Pride Team's co-coach, Kristina Bluford, likes challenges.

"I don't like to water down routines, I don't give them an easy routine that they can do," Bluford said. "I try and give them something a little difficult so they have something to work towards."

A'Ja Nauden is the buddy of 17-year-old Joy Niebergall. Joy has developmental delays which also includes hearing, speech and language disabilities.

Nauden said Joy is a great tumbler.

"Because she's really good at it and she just makes me laugh when she tumbles," Nauden said. "(I) like her facial expression and just her body movements."

The team meets year round every Saturday morning.

"We have children who come from all over," Valencia said. "We have some who are right here in New Lenox, we have children who come from Lansing, from Indiana, Crestwood.

"Our buddies go from age 10 to 17 and our children with special needs (on) the pride team, they can go from age 3 to whatever age they want to be.:

With the success of the Pride Team, Valencia hopes to grow.

"I would love to have a team of 30 children with special needs," she said. "It's so exciting to see them walk in the door. They're always happy to be here and they walk in and they're hugging you , they're looking forward to seeing their buddies every Saturday."

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