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. Bob

    This is an incredible human interest story, but you need to update your use and understanding of terminology. The lead-in, "Disabled girl gets spot on cheer team" is inappropriate. If you said, "high school girl with disability gets spot on cheer team" you would be current and so much more appropriate.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      "High School Girl with disability EARNS a spot on cheer team"
      is completely inaccurate.

      September 29, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. teamroper

    Gotta love this girl. Go get'em!

    September 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kristian J

    @ Melina319 & BethTX.

    That's exactly what Jesus would have said, right?
    Kudos to the moral majority. Boo on those PC liberals for making a disabled girls dream come true.

    Stay classy, ladies.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Missing the point

    I find it sad that people so often miss the point of random acts of kindness. It's not about being politically correct. Sure, there are other teenagers who tried out without disabilities who didn't meet the "qualifications" of being a cheerleader but this particular teenager has a disability that limits her severely yet she didn't let it limit her dreams. She still dreamed big and someone saw that and helped make that dream happen, even if it was for one game. What's the shame in that? Her parents footed the bill for her to go. If your child was limited by something wouldn't you want them to dream big, to dream outside of their disability? That's how greatness happens. Seriously people, get over yourselves and realize that not everyone is about political correctness and some of us do have hearts. We see the potential in people and that if we feed the desire that the spirit will be fed and the fire will continue to burn.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Go Julia

      Great post Missing the Point!!

      September 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Thanks, Missing the Point. This truly does not have to be about political correctness - it can just be about being nice. BUT it could be about "PC", too - there are plenty of people who are very uncomfortable with the idea of a cheerleader being anything but the stereotypical "perfect" kid (girl, even, at most schools!). The last part of this story notes that Julia participates in pep band, marching (!!) band, and dance classes. She's obviously got talents to share and a desire to perform. We don't know why she has not "made" the Aurora cheer squad after 3 tryouts, but it speaks volumes to her desire and determination that she will try out a FOURTH time this year.

      September 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      @Missing The Point – I could not have stated it any better. Go get em Julia!!!!! You are setting such a wonderful example. God bless you child!

      September 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anita McCants

      Well said, Missing the point!

      September 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Paul from Canada

    Fantastic story. Who are we to complain about anything? Outstanding girl and outstanding cheer team. You bring us all hope that there are good people in this world.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    This is a great story! Good for you Julia, and good for the instructor and fellow students that had the insight to see beyond what might be the norm and allowing this student to be a part of something that was important to her. A good lesson for everyone involved.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Elizabeth

    Linda Fox and her cheer squad deserve a huge cheer themselves for showing people what true sportsmanship really entails. Julia Sullivan's dreams are the same as any teen girl, even if she hasn't the same body most do. She loves cheering and showing what she CAN do - thanks to Linda Fox and the Portland HS team, Julia finally got a chance to do that. It's too bad that Aurora, NE, can't seem to find a place on their team for such a pretty, outgoing, dedicated kid!

    September 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kris

    Go Julia! You sure make me want to get up and Get to Work. Life is for the Living. We have to play the hand we are delt. I love this story.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kenny

    This is unfair to every other girl that tried out and didn't make it. She only made the squad BECAUSE she is handicapped. How is that fair? I think everyone that tried out should have made the squad. That would be fair. That way making the team wouldn't be special or an achievement because anybody who showed up got a spot, regardless of skill or ability.

    September 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Do the rest of the human race a favor and jump off a tall building today.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Specifically, Kenny, you imbecile, if you had reading comprehension skills above the second-grade level you would know that she didn't "make" any squad or take anybody's place. She was allowed to cheer for ONE FREAKING GAME.

      What a useless, gaseous half-wit you are.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Kenny I get it, I ruined my back, in 24/7 pain went back to school learned computer sci, told I can't take network class cause I can't pull cable! Discrimonation at work, I'm relagated to the Help Desk! can't promote! Can't find a Company open minder enough to let me use the skils I have!!
      P.S. How do you take dance lessons from a Wheelchair???

      September 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      Was every girl that didn't make the squad allowed to cheer for ONE FREAKING GAME? No? Then it was unfair to them. They only let her do it BECAUSE she is handicapped. There are plenty of girls, that tried out, that weren't given the chance to cheer for ONE FREAKING GAME. How is that fair to them? You people are being far too PC and ignoring the other kids who didn't get a chance to do what she did. It is unfair and discriminatory against all the others who tried out.

      September 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      +1 here too

      September 29, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Jodie

      So, Kenny, because you didn't feel you got a break, no one else can have one either? Grow up. I am SO happy you are not in charge of the world. If you don't like your current job, then go back to school AGAIN. That's what I did.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. zooboo

    It's too bad this nice kid wasn't accepted by her own school. and NO- she wasn't picked because of her 'dis-ability"- she was picked because of her Ability.. Most cheerleaders are obnoxious stuck up snobs and would never do somethign so wonderful for this girl. Good for the ones who did. It shoudl teach them a lesson in humility.

    September 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Bull! of course she was picked because of her disability!! It looks so PC! Deny it at your own peril!

      September 28, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. E

    Go Julia! Cheering is about exactly that-cheering and spirit! Any team should be proud to have you on the sidelines rooting for them! With your determination, you will go far in life! Great story!

    September 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Beel

    I'm wondering if the naysayers commenting here would have the nerve to say what they are saying to this girl's face.
    Just, you know, curious.
    Anyway, I think it's great to see someone be resilient and keep pursuing what they want to do. She could fall into the trap of being bitter and cynical.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. solex

    When i was in High School, we had a girl who was a dwarf on the cheer squad. She was the most tireless supporter of school programs I have ever seen and was also Student Body Prez and the whole bit and NO ONE would even mention her challenges as being a reason for her success and popularity. People can only try to achieve what they want at whatever level their drives and desires take them – the rest is drama.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JJ

    God bless her-she is an inspiration to all of us and living proof that the human spirit can conquer anything!

    September 28, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Except clap.

      September 29, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. Golfman

    Nice could see in her expression how thrilled she was to get the chance to do something she as always wanted to do. And for you nay-sayers, how many times in your life did you get to do something because you knew someone, or your parents were connected. When you got to do it, you loved it too and now have that great memory. What a memory this child will have and what an experience for those other girls on that team. This was WIN WIN all the way around!

    September 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
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