September 28th, 2011
08:23 AM ET

Disabled girl gets spot on cheer team, hundreds of miles away

A Nebraska girl born with incomplete arms and no legs has finally achieved her dream of being a cheerleader - thanks to a high school coach about 800 miles away.

Julia Sullivan, 16, of Aurora, and her family traveled last week to Portland (Michigan) High School at the invitation of Portland cheerleading coach Linda Fox, who had Sullivan join her varsity squad for Friday’s homecoming football game.

It was the first time that Julia, who tried out for her high school’s squad in Nebraska three times without success, had cheered on a team in public, CNN affiliate WILX reported.

“I love to get the crowd going, and (I’m) just … excited (to) show the world what I can do,” she told WILX.

Fox said she’d read about Julia’s efforts to join her squad in Aurora.

“I was surfing the Internet and came on Julia’s story, and I was very inspired,” Fox told WILX. “I brought it to the team, and they challenged me to do something.”

 Julia and her parents, Mike and Carolyn Sullivan, flew to Michigan at their own expense, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Julia, wearing a modified Portland High School cheerleading uniform, cheered on the sidelines from her chair, and participated in the final stunt with the help of the team, to the applause of students in the stands, according to the Ionia (Michigan) Sentinel-Standard.

“Her cheering may not be quite the same as other people’s, but she can still do it. She can strap on the pom poms – her spirit is still there,” Mike Sullivan told WILX.

Julia intends to try out for her high school’s squad next year, WILX reported. The family and the school district last month agreed to work on making accommodations for her disability, but the district is making no guarantees that she’ll make the team, the World-Herald reported.

Julia had previously taken dance classes and participated in pep and marching bands, according to the World-Herald.

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Filed under: Michigan • Nebraska
soundoff (333 Responses)
  1. sue

    Can't anyone just be happy that this girl got to do her dreams?? Put yourself in her place for 30 you wouldn't be complaining anymore about anything.....Life is to short....

    September 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Matt

    Absolutely AWESOME! GO Julia!!

    September 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. norma wilkinson Long Beach Cal.

    How wonderful that there are still people in this world with enough heart to make a young ladies dream come true. We hear today so much nastiness and resistance to helping others that it makes you want to just give up and cry. This is a wonderful story and I wish Julia many more such moving experiences with REAL people at her side. I just wish I could be there!!!!I HATE TO SAY IT BUT THERE WERE A NUMBER OF VILE PEOPLE WHO ANSWERED THIS STORY, MAY THEY NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANYTHING LIKE THIS BECAUSE "THEY:" COULDN'T HANDLE IT!!!!!


    September 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Try to ignore those people. They are the one's with an insurmountable handicap, not this girl.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • SD

      To: Norman Wilkerson. Well said: They are the ones with disability!

      September 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lacie

      AMEN !!!!! Couldn't have said it better. Why can't people just feel good. She has dreams like everyone else. A school read about her and offered to do something. It's not rocket science. Like someone else said ... how would YOU handle what she was handed? She is like everyone else. She has dreams. Not all dreams come true but no need to not dream. Too bad people need to belittle her, insult her along with others who "shouldn't be a cheerleader" Grow up. enjoy the kindness of others and reach out to help others. Amazing how great your heart and sould would feel. Also would stop some of the crap and violence going on .. along with being a bully.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Well, well..

    This is what's wrong with America. Why can't we just see this for what it is? The girl wants to be a cheerleader. The school can accomodate that request. What's the issue? Is there any need for the negative hooplah, or fluff? Are some of you that unhappy with your little lives that you feel the need to disect something as simple as this young lady having fun, and not needing to dwell on her disability?? Please, get a life.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melina319

      I'm not a heartless person who needs to get a life just b/c I disagree with putting her on a cheerleading team. In my opinion, if you can't perform the actions required of all of the other members of the team, then you shouldn't be on it. There are tons of kids who dont make a sports team b/c they can't do the job. We dont make exceptions for all of them. This girl is clearly capable of doing lots of things. She shouldn't be treated any differently than any of the other kids in her school.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • BethTX

      Exactly, Melina. She was handed an opportunity because someone wanted to be politically correct. Wonder how those other girls feel who were turned down but can actually perform well?

      September 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well, well..

      What exactly is your point?? The girl couldn't get on the squad at her original school and was turned down 3 times, but was able to at another. If you apply for credit at one bank, and are turned down – shouldn't you expect to possibly get credit elsewhere? Are you saying that there should be a standard set of criteria across the board? This world isn't one size fits all sweetie. Broaden your horizons, and loosen the h*ll up.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melina319

      Well, Well – my horizons are plenty broad, thank you. You can't seem to make a point w/o a personal rant. I do believe there are general standards across the board for getting on sports teams. Specific to cheerleading, I imagine all of the others trying out had to perform jumps and flips and other feats. I know I can't perform those tasks, so I have no business being on the cheerleading squad. Just like I can't throw a football, so I shouldn't try out for that team either. We should all stick to what we're good at and what we can do rather than making sure everyone gets included in everything. That's just my opinion on this topic.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • so, i'm gonna be "that person"...

      first of all, well, well, i'm pretty sure melina is not your "sweetie." don't be condescending.
      also, your bank analogy? completely flawed. you can shop around all you want for a bank that will provide you with that loan, but if you have no income and are overwhelmingly unqualified for a loan, it doesn't matter how many banks you visit, you will be denied.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I completely agree.

      The point is she didn’t earn it. She was given it while other far more capable girls were turned down. All in the name of being PC.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • SDCyclist

      Ladies... each of you is a heartless, soulless, really awful person. There are exceptions to everything. Here is an enthusiastic, fun-loving, well-adjusted teenager who just wants to live out her dream but was born different and can't do the same things as 99.9% of the rest of us and all you can do is focus on so-called "fairness" to other kids? Are you kidding me? How do each of you sleep at night? Someone saw her story and said, "Hey... I can make a difference in this kids life even if it's just for one night..." and you ladies have a problem with that? Really?? She was already told she most likely wouldn't make her own team next year, but you know what...? She's going to try anyway. And you feel like you have the right to judge her because she's different? Shame on you – each of you. Again... I honestly don't know how you wake up each day and look in the mirror, much less sleep each night. Shame on you horrible women...

      September 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melina319

      SDCyclist – I'm not judging her, I'm commenting on the situation. You, on the other hand, seem to have no problem judging strangers. Maybe you should take a long, hard look in your own mirror.

      September 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      "I'm not a heartless person who needs to get a life just b/c I disagree with putting her on a cheerleading team."

      No, you're a heartless person who needs to get a life for plenty of other reasons too.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lacie

      @SDCyclistou you are so right and Thank You

      September 29, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. petercha

    Way cool, glad she made it on the cheerleading team!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sarah

    This awesome school will be Blessed! If only there were more like this one. You go girl!!!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      This awesome school will likely turn out 9 out of 10 pinheads who played soccer or basketball or whatever sport/function that didn't keep score, and made it so that everybody wins.
      Then those clown kids get out in the real world and get a real shock when they figure out that only about 1 in 100 actually do win. Then these young clown adults end up going to 'shrinks' to complain because they aren't winning, or they sue somebody to 'buy a win' because they didn't win like they did when they were younger.
      I'm glad sooo many people live in the world of "Little House on the Prairie", where something bad happens and 45 minutes later, everybody's happy. There's the real clowns...
      Love watching them fail...repeatedly.

      September 29, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Susan

    Check out The Sparkle Effect, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps high school students create cheerleading squads that include students with disabilities. The Sparkle Effect has generated and tangibly supported (with free uniforms and free on-site training) 42 inclusive squads from coast to coast. Rather than battling about these issues, perhaps the answer is to create more inclusive teams. A win-win for everyone involved.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. laurensgameoflife

    Ok I get that technically she probably did not have the qualifications to make the cheer squad at her high school, but she has no legs and incomplete arms! Give her a break. Wikipedia tells me that Aurora, Nebraska has a population of 4,225 people. I don't think it's going to ruin their high school cheerleading national championship dreams if they let the disabled girl sit on the sidelines with them at the football games.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mortimerman

    Great story!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. The Grammy

    How refresing that people will look not at the handicap and see a young woman with a big heart. Refreshing also that a teacher/coach would be inspired enough by this young woman to provide a High School cheerleading experience for her. Nice to see good people doing something that is so awesome!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Heh

    She's really cute. That face and smile is probably better looking than half the cheer leaders on her home high school's team.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mojo Jojo


    September 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • J


      September 29, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jason

    "(I’m) just … excited (to) show the world what I can do,”

    Pretty cool. People who have a slight limitation still have the wants & desires that the rest of us able-bodied people do. Kudos

    September 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      No legs, and tiny nubs for arms is NOT a small limitation.
      Next up the Heisman trophy goes to Timmy for being pretty cool!.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      "Next up the Heisman trophy goes to Timmy for being pretty cool!."

      Look on the bright side Jason - with enough affirmative action, even a moron like you might get a job some day.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Sorry, that reply was to Sean. not Jason.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jodie

      Sean, for this girl...maybe her different body is a "slight limitation" to her. Only she can know, and only her opinion counts as to how "limited" she feels she is. Since she's making the effort to follow her dreams, my guess is that she doesn't consider her difference very limiting at all.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. jordan scene©

    Wow people show a little compassion. Why would you have to go and be all negative about this? So what if she is disabled and cannot do everything the other cheerleaders can do. Its not hurting anybody to let her show up to games and practices, put on her uniform, and sit in her chair and cheer. But this does go a long way for making her life happier, and it also is very inspiring to anybody facing a challenge or tough times. Somehow I think beth and "that person" are disabled emotionally, and I wouldn't even waste a drop of urine if either were to self combust.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NEgirl

    This article gives the history of this story. Well worth reading to understand the issues.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
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