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. nclaw441

    I am all for special considerations in situations such as this. This young lady should be given a means of participating in encouraging school spirit at games. I applaud that. Difficulties arise, in this age of litigation, when, next year, a girl (or boy, but that's another issue) tries out for the squad– she isn't disabled, but she can't jump as high, yell as loud, isn't as "bendy", can't remember "all the words" to the cheers, etc.– does she make the team? Why not? It sounds ridiculous, but we all know this will happen. I guess we could just let anyone who signs up be a cheerleader (and as a side note, I don't have any cheerleaders in my family, and, to be honest, when I was younger, I only paid attention to the pretty ones– I couldn't care less about their cheering). Accommodate this young lady, but just understand what is coming down the pike...

    September 29, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Barry G.

    Good for her.

    And good for the school, for being able to look beyond a person's disability.

    September 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sharon

    what a wonderful world in which we live!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SD

    I have read alot of comments. And some of you are just COLD! I think it is great the Julia is on the time. If all the other girls want to try out so be it. To: EvilQueen 620 the ADA Law states nothing about cheerleading. Thanks for pointing that out.
    Thanks from a mom with a Austic child.

    September 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Feast of Beast

    Good for her! She is a pretty young lady who is obviously facing a lot of challenges, but has the spirit to overcome them. Thank you, Ms. Fox, for allowing her this opportunity. I hope that she is able to realize many more dreams that most of us take for granted. Great job, Julia!

    September 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TeamGrady

    Julia you are an inspiration to alot of people just trying to make it thru life. Don't give up. Remember "If you don't dream to become a champion, you won't become a champion" quote by Jason McElwain or JayMac. Look him up based on alot of responses here he didn't deserve a chance either. And to the Portland Highschool Cheer Squad you gals ROCK!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sybaris

    Yet another example of the feminization of America.

    We have traded quality for "feel good"

    September 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • catwoman


      September 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike Welch

      Which quality do you speak of Sybaris? Perfect symmetry and flawless execution of a cheer? Or the quality of heart that makes a group of high school students decide there are more important things in life? Which quality means more in the long run?

      September 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sybaris

      By your logic she should be allowed to play on the Olympic volleyball team because she wants to.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JFWilder

    Whattya call a guy with no arms and no legs hanging on the wall? ART. Whattya call a guy with no arms and no legs sitting in a ditch? Phil. Whattya call a guy with no arms and no legs swimming in a lake? Bob. There will be no end to these, so get used to it.

    September 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charese

      You are stupid,ignorant, and obviously think you are above disabilities and are perfect. If you are in a car accident or some terminal illness maybe we can think of a joke for you.

      September 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFWilder

      Whattya call a guy with no arms and no legs stuck in a forest fire? Bernie. Whattya call a girl with no arms and no legs resting on the beach? Sandy. What do you call a dog with no arms and no legs? Doesn't matter, he won't come anyway. What do you call a cat with no arms and no legs? Dog food.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. SD

    You all need to get a life! It is wonderful she got a spot. She may not get it next year. If your child dreamed of doing something, would you not want them to? I know you can not say, you wouldnt. Every parent wants their child to live their dreams. If she does not get it next year, she has now. And all the girls that didn't make it need to try harder or do something else. Dont we have enough evil in the world? Stop putting ugly comments unless you have walked in her shoes, or a parent of a disable child. Mom of Austic child.

    September 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sybaris

      "A man's gotta know his limitations" – Dirty Harry

      September 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • LuckyMac219

      I'm the sister of a child with severe Cornelia deLange Syndrome. He cannot walk or communicate and needs care 24/7, so I know what you're going through better than most. I encourage my brother to do things to the best of his ability, but I would never lie to him and say that he can do something that I know will always be beyond his ability. Of course I WANT him to do everything a normal 16-year-old boy would want to do, but that doesn't mean that I'd put him on a football field or behind the wheel of a car. It's just not practical. Sometimes accepting a person's limitations and focusing on what he/she CAN accomplish is best. In my brother's case, it's the little things–sitting up, moving around, uttering simple words. That means more to me and my family than him being "normal" does.

      September 30, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. SD

    Well put Jodie!

    September 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Heather

    This is a heart warming story... BUT! Lots of girls go out for cheer leading every year at most schools. Most of them end up disappointed as there simply are not enough spots on the team for the number of girls who try out. The ones that make the cut are often the ones who have trained for years in dance and gymnastics.

    Every kid out there has a story and every one standing nervously in front of the coach at try outs has a reason to want this and something they are trying to overcome to get there. To simply allow someone on a team because "they have hardship" or "they reeeeeeeeeeally want it" isn't fair to any of the kids going out for the team. In the end, not even to the kid who got in on a sympathy vote because making the team would be about who has a better back story than who has the skill.

    Now, if the school has a policy where all kids who go out for sports are included, then by all means she should be part of the cheer team.

    September 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeamGrady

      Based on your comment there are some things in life that you probably will never experience. Once you do you can look back and say WOW I understand. Life is not always fair, but it can be ______. I'll let you fill in the blank any way you want. Good luck.

      September 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heather

      Dear TeamGrady,

      After reading a number of your replies, I see that your main argument is "you don't get it" to anyone who has a different point of view. To change someone's mind or point of view, you have to actually give evidence, not just, "I know something yoooooooou don't know..." (to be sung to the neener neener tune)

      Now on to things I do know. I know that accepting one's limitations is liberating. Once you are comfortable with who you are, limitations are no longer fetters, only guidelines. In my case? I could be bitter that as a nearly 40 yr old curvy mother of three, I won't be accepted into the nation's top ballet school. I could leave my family, travel across the country and walk in every day whining at the directors that I should be given a chance. It's not fair if they don't. Let's be honest – I'd never get a chance to dance. Or... I could do what I did do – I accepted my age, my body and my life. I contacted local schools and found one that would let me study. I get to dance on stage a few times a year.

      What I find telling is that the people I know who embrace their limitations are always more successful and content than those who expect the world to conform to their own personal dreams.

      That is what I know.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    Would you really want the sympathy vote when its clear you cant do something....this political correctness is SOOOOOO annoying. Same as a kid getting a trophy no matter what.

    September 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fletcher

    To those of you who have poked fun at Julia or people made similar to her how sad. For the people that think the challenges she face are no different than the average person I know from experience they are. I have 3 wonderful average built boys and an amazing 3year old daughter who was born with no arms and basically no legs and I can tell you the challenges she faces are much different than those that the average person does. I thank God for the cheerleading team from Portland, Michigan and the opportunity they gave Julia.

    September 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kenny

    I wish all the other girls who didn't make the squad, were given the same chance as this girl. Everyone agrees all the girls that tried out should have been allowed to cheer on the squad, right? RIGHT?

    September 29, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeamGrady

      Exactly what do you mean by "same chance"? There is a difference between "equal" and "same" can you figure it out?

      September 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      By same chance I mean they should have been allowed to cheer for the squad too.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeamGrady

      Nothing wrong with that as long as they are give an equal chance to do that.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      They didn't give an equal chance. Those who were cut from tryouts, weren't told, "Hey, you can cheer for one game." Only this girl. I wonder why she was the only one given the opportunity to cheer for one game. I'm sure it wasn't because she is handicapped. They did not treat all the girls the same. But who cares about fairness.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeamGrady

      And here I thought you had the concept of what equal and same were. Please for one day volunteer at something like Special Olympics then lets talk about it. I think you and alot of other are missing the point here. I did for a long time. Now I know what really is important in life. Hopefully you find what truly make the world go round. Good luck.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      I respect the Special Olympics, they are for the "special" people, and the other Olympics are for everyone else. Does the Special Olympics allow non-special people to participate? I have nothing against this girl. The right thing to do would be to treat her like everyone else, or make a special cheerleading squad for her, not change the non special cheerleading squad to allow her to participate. It i unfair to other non special girls that didn't get to cheer with the squad like they wanted to.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeamGrady

      You just don't git it...... Maybe one day you will...... Heres to a healthy happy life..... Time to move on

      September 29, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      It is sad that no one cares about the other girls who didn't get to cheer with the squad.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Nancy Paul

    This young lady's a rock star! Inspiring.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
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