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. Wilder Napalm

    This speaks volumes about coach Fox, It also says something about the coach in Nebraska.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mendy

    The NE Aurora paper said they did allow her to cheer, but the family refused b/c they didn't want her to do basketball games b/c of safety. Sounds like some of the story is missing here.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Maybe that's the case, but do you really think Aurora would actually admit they wouldn't allow her to make the team b/c of her disability?

      September 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aeroman

      I agree with Gary. It looks to me like she wants to cheer. Basketball or football doesn't make a difference. I doubt the district is going to come out and say, "Yep, you're right. We won't let her cheer because we're discriminating against her disability. You got us!"

      September 30, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. James

    I am proud of her. She had the guts to do this knowing that she had limited movements. She tried and succeeded which is more than a lot of so called, "normal" people who don't even try, and whine when it gets too hard. She will go a lot further than some people I know. I hope she keeps fighting.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • binky42

      But what about the dozens of able bodied girls who tried out for cheerleading and didn't make the cut? This isn't exactly fair to them, is it? They tried too. This is just an example of forced praise for a girl who cannot possibly ever be a real cheerleader – and deep down inside she knows it, because disabled people aren't clueless about people acting fake around them. I know people with disabilities, and the last thing they want is for others to pretend that they can achieve something that is physically impossible for them. Practicality is usually better than denial.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. James

    Also, her family shouldn't stop her from trying anything. They should encourage her in everything she does.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mimi

      Should she be a bouncer if that's her dream? Have a dose of reality, you hippies. She is NOT a cheerleader, she's a charity-case. And one that is taking the place of a girl who trained and is qualified to be a REAL cheerleader.

      October 9, 2011 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ryan

    Why don't you go somewhere else. This is not the place to make those comments. Or are you drunk and that desperate that you need to make a comment like that on a story of this nature?

    September 29, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Harold

    You're just stupid

    September 29, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dano

    Go back to the band! 😀 Life's better there.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aud

      This one time, at band camp...

      September 30, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. Godblessher!!!

    I hope she cheers and has a great season!
    That movie "Soul Surfer" I think has done a lot, in that it has made disabled kids look at themselves differently.
    A must-see movie!!!
    Good luck girl!

    September 29, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Duane

    Good for her, she is living life as SHE dictates. Glad to see she is living her life as she sees fit

    September 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Coach Kayce

    This was a great story! She seems like a great kid who just wants to cheer on her school team. I am not sure if she reads these comments OR not.. But her family she look into ALL STAR cheerleading. USASF (United States All Star Federation) has over 170 teams in the United States that are geared towards "disabled" athletes. These teams compete just like ANY OTHER team and is judged. Depending on the team, they stunt, tumble, dance, cheer just like a "Regular" team.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coach Kayce

      She = Should Sorry about the type

      September 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda Fox

      God Bless you Coach Kayce!

      September 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Balloni on the side

    This young lady has great determination and courage. What she may not be aware of is that what she has learned through this experience will carry on for a lifetime. As she further develops her character, potential friends will gravitate to her, she will earn top grades and she will succeed in her chosen career. Wouldn't it be nice to see this type of spirit in more of the so called 'abled' population? Keep cheering, learning and living, Julia.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nasir

    Bravo! Showing up is half the battle, and this young lady appears to have won the war.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Linda Fox


      September 30, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. binky42

    This is just cruel. Disabled people, and able bodied people, need to understand that there are some things we just can't do. My life-long vertigo means I can never be an astronaut, but my parents didn't write to NASA and demand I be put on a space shuttle with extra vomit bags.

    Parading a disabled kid around in front of tumbling cheerleaders is the most horrible thing I can think of. I wouldn't want someone to make a pity-party spectacle out of me or my family in this way. Her parents should focus on what she CAN do. I'm sure she has many skills where she can excel, and focusing on the things she can't do rather than the things she can is not doing anyone any good.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • kerplunk777

      WHOOO there Binky42, I am a disabled Vet since 1958 and have accomplished many different things in my life on my own terms and have many awards others have not been able to achieve.....It's attuide, not able or disabled bodies. When you get to age four you may understand, mean while put the Binky back in and take a nap now.

      September 30, 2011 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Holy Cow

      Whooo whoo whoo there kerplunky. You can't over come your disability. People are only cabable of doing what others think they can do. Don't be spreading around the false idea that humans can some how do more than anyone thought they could. Where would that kind of thinking leave us.

      September 30, 2011 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
    • montyross

      women demanded that they become firefighters, Obama demanded to be pres.....

      September 30, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. JustThinking

    Her story is great, but she forgot the most important response..."Thank you!"

    September 30, 2011 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
    • From Aurora

      I also noticed that she didn't say any thank you's either.

      September 30, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. Aussie

    ROFL at 0.25 the teacher says "I came on her story" and about 3 of the girls try to hold back from laughing

    September 30, 2011 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
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