VILONIA — While their mission is the same as other squads, some of the members of the Vilonia Youth Football Cheer Association Varsity Red Squad "do it a little differently."
During a weekly practice this week, the cheerleading team of 20 or so girls was chanting "Who rocks the house? I say the Eagles rock the house," in preparation for an upcoming Saturday game. They were also giggling and squealing regarding the issuance of their uniforms and pompons. It will be the first time some of them will be wearing an official uniform.
The girls are a variety of sizes. Some are tall, several are short and some wear glasses. They are as varied in size as their hair color. Some blend in; some standout such as Andrea Thorn. Her cheers may be louder than anyone, but she doesn’t kick or do the splits. She cheers from a wheelchair and according to her coach, Glenda Bryant, "is the one who helps to whip the other ones into shape."
While Andrea can’t do some of the special moves, her twin sister Baylee appears to have no problems as she delivers on a dance routine and seals it with a cartwheel. Although she has no special needs, she is also a standout. Her character is sweet and her work ethics are strong for such a small girl.
Some of the cheerleaders on the team cheer competitively. They all have spirit.
"Cheer is about spirit," Bryant said. "It’s not about labeling."
The team welcomes anyone, Bryant said, with a passion for cheering, including any special needs students. Bryant describes the special needs girls as "cheerleaders who do it a little differently" but who are required to do their best just the same as the others.
"We are all a family and about helping each other," Bryant added.
Referred to as "Coach G" by the girls, Bryant said she may be also considered a special needs coach. She was diagnosed with MS about 10 years ago. She is assisted by "Coach T," also known as Terina Atkins.
"We focus on teaching the girls what they need to know to be effective cheerleaders — not their special needs," Bryant said.
The Vilonia Youth Football Cheer Association, which accepts cheerleaders second through seventh grade, welcomes all. In addition to cheering at Saturday games, the squad practices after school two times per week.