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. Jane

    Go Julia! That is so awesome! Go girl!

    September 28, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. r

    All those cheery comments here heaping praise, etc., on this young girl and the situation winding up like this. Hah. There's no way you people are so supportive to each and every person around you should they strive to do something that is just not achievable.

    September 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael J.

      I think a good English class would benefit you right about now.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Haven't you heard?
      These days, everybody is awesome and everybody wins!
      It's so freekin' happy. I want to throw up a little bit in my throat.

      September 29, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Jodie

      I work with kids who have Cystic Fibrosis. Yes, indeed, I support them in all their endeavors despite their challenging diagnosis. Some manage to achieve their dreams, too. I hope you do not work with children or young adults. and I hope you aren't trying to raise any kids.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      @Jodie – A man has to know his limitations. You've found work with kids...other peoples kids. Good for you. You don't have to take them home to your perfect "7th Heaven" world.
      Let me know how your kids do after you've bailed them out of jail 'cause they didn't get what they wanted (i.e. wanted = thought they deserved because the world is a perfect place)

      September 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lu Ann

    What an awesome story – you go girl! Show them how it's done! We'll be cheering for you! 🙂

    September 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lisa

    praises to the team who let Julia cheer with them. Just to bad that our home town of Aurora missed their chance to let her shine.

    September 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Maybe they had better things to try to educate kids...ya know, like schools sometimes do...or are at least supposed to do.

      September 29, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Loriel

      J; something tells me your heart is about 10 sizes too small. And it is still pretty early for The Grinch!

      September 29, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      @Loriel – My heart may be 10 sizes too small, but my brain is 10 sizes too big...big enough to know that not everybody wins and not everybody CAN win EVERY time. So, go back to watching "Little House on the Prairie" and let me know how that life turns out for ya...

      September 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Three Dog Mama

    I hope she does make her high school's team. She has what it takes to be a cheerleader!

    September 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Except the ability to properly follow the rest of the squad in their routines.
      Kinda like a car with 3 flat tires.

      September 29, 2011 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Loriel

      J, J, J, J......seriously; grow a ticker. You are a real downer. Not everything in life is black or white. Every now and then; you do something simply because it is the right thing to do. I am sure she would be pleased with any participation and if it gives this girl who has no arms or legs some joy; isn't it worth it? I would hope your answer would be yes.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      @ Loriel – Yes, it is black and white. Either you can or you can't. The rest of the squad can clap, she can't. I can think happy and sad thoughts.
      Apparently you're still stuck in that happy world. That's what's sad...

      September 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tina Loomis

    Great Job Julia, and congrats for the wonderful coach who looked past Julia's disabilities and just saw a young woman who just wants to be a cheerleader and be accepted. Thanks for running the story Nebraska newspaper.

    September 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Anton Smith

    I love this story, I'm just like her in that I play sports too. It is Sled Hockey.

    September 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Olivia

    Oh my stars!!!! I think this is so cool and amazing!!!!!!!

    September 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. james

    Come on... I dont want to be mean, I've got nothing against the girl... but this is just ridiculous. "She has what it takes to be a cheerleader", no, no she clearly doesnt. She doesnt have legs or arms. This is kind of an issue with our culture, we feel the need to make everybody feel like they're special and they can do anything they want to if they just put their mind to it. This girl would clearly be better applied somewhere else, look at stephen hawkins. He gets plenty of respect for totally legitimate reasons, without people on vomiting up charity comments to make themselves feel better cause they encouraged a handicapped girl in her efforts to accomplish some wasted endeavor.

    Thats the problem with our society, instead of saying... "you know, maybe cheerleading isnt your thing" we tell people "YA!! YOU GO GIRL!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!". No she cant, and I hate to say it she's making a mockery of herself. Just being honest, unlike half the people posting here. Doesnt make her less of a person, doesnt make her less qualified to become something in life. Just means she doesnt have legs or arms.

    September 28, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olivia

      That was REALLY mean, and ever think that she might check this later tonight or something?!?!?!?!?!?!?! And she's really good especially for how she incomplete arms and legs. I think she can do it. But it's OK to think that, but DON'T POST IT AND TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT!!!!! KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      September 29, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • NatureGirl

      Cheerleading is more about getting your home crowd fired, if she's able to do that then there's no reason she shouldn't try. And to compare her to Stephen Hawkin...come on. The man is off the charts genius so only so many people can fill that gig.

      September 29, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      That's so mean. It's high school cheerleading not the olympics gymnastics team. It's about spirit and being involved in your school. She should be able to be on the team. She's beautiful inside and out and would be a great asset to any cheer team!

      September 29, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
    • J


      September 29, 2011 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Terrence

      Agreed. There's nothing mean about saying that at all, it's a fact of life that some people are not born with the attributes required to succeed in all fields or aspirations.

      September 29, 2011 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
    • What a bunch of losers

      This is what's wrong with america, a bunch of delusional idiots doing stupid things that bring down the exceptional to the lowest medium possible so the less talented can acheive through political correctness what they never could do on their own. You think this is a great strory? Frankly. I liked the Spartan way of selection far better. China doesn't do this crap and like it or not they will be your masters in 30 years. Mybe you can have her wave at them as they march into your town...

      September 29, 2011 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
    • tsilby

      Well said, James. Truly what was needed to be said (because 95% of the readers are at least "thinking" it...and I dare say, 100%)
      It's not mean to say that this girl should generally 'not' be a cheerleader, and for all the "you go girls" (which is nice, and I surely would encourage her to do all that she is capable of...) the reality is that she will not continue in this endeavor and it's a mockery, and most people, right or wrong, are chuckling about it.
      Cheerleaders do flips, jump, kick up their legs. It's what they *do* and if a person can't *do* those things, then they are not going to make a good cheerleader. IF, and only if, this girl was at a special school for crippled and handicapped kids, and their entire cheerleading squad was made up of those with a would make sense. Otherwise, this is a "feel good" story that will be forgotten by next week.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. Olivia

    I REALLY hope she gets on! I think she will. =)

    September 28, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The_Mick

    Seriously, I applaud her determination. But what about the more physically capable girl, who can do ALL the routines, pyramids, jumps, etc, who would be cut and denied a place on her high school squad if she's allowed on? There are other extracurricular activities besides cheerleading which might better fit her physical condition.

    September 29, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. J

    At least she won't be able to fall and break an arm or a leg and sue the school so far into debt it'll close up it's doors.
    Or will she?

    September 29, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. Baldenario

    My vote goes to getting her a miniature "Eat Me!" tank like in the movie "Animal House" . . .

    I think that would be awesome! 😀

    September 29, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. maryland

    Thank you CNN for sharing a story filled with human warmth and love! This young girl is truly an inspiration of courage. God bless the coach and cheerleaders for compassionately aiding Julia in pursuit of her dreams. It's a shame a handicap girl has to travel 800 miles because her own school lacks true spirit. Go Julia!!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. Cricket

    There has been a disabled girl on the cheerleading squad at a high school in my area for years. She tries out like everyone else and is voted in by her classmates. However, if the didn't get voted in, that would have to be ok too. I'm sure she limits what the sqad is able to do but evidently they don't mind. Lots of girls want to be on the cheerleading squad and never make it. I could never be a fashion model because I'm only 5 feet tall. Sometimes there are things we just can't do but I am glad this girl got to experience her dream.

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