(Nancy Kaufman) #1

“This joyful team

a reason to cheer!”

Olympics is great, but wondering if there
are any local special needs teams for things
like cheerleading.
Almost immediately, a message from a
man named Alex Fox, a Special Olympics
coach, popped up. No, there aren’t. But I
would love to help somebody start one!
I’m your girl! Cristina replied enthusias-
tically, her heart leaping at the opportunity.

Building team spirit
Soon after their conversation, Cristina met
with A lex. “Instead of helping k ids with spe-
cial needs adapt for cheerleading, I want to
adapt cheerleading for the kids,” she said.
“I k now you’ll have at least one student—
my son. Karston has a neurological disease
and is in a wheelchair,” Alex explained, and
when Cristina learned that Alex also had a
medically fragile nephew, Mitch, who had
died at age 15, she decided to honor him and
call her team “Mitchie’s Mustangs.”
Alex immediately put out the word
on Facebook and offered his office lobby
for practice. Five kids showed up for the
first class, including 19-year-old Andrea
Vazquez, who was born with a gene defect
that left her with kidney problems and
learning disabilities. “She used to do g ym-
nastics, and she loves to dance,” her mom,
Virginia, told Cristina. “Unfortunately, she
just aged out of the high school programs.
Without any activity to enjoy, she just
mopes around the house.” That was exactly
why Cristina had opened her team to girls
and boys of any age or ability.
After a round of introductions, Cristina
lined up the kids and began teaching a
simple two-step cheer.


ristina Rood smiled as her 2-year-
old daughter, Charlotte, and her
baby brother, K ayden, rocked and
bounced to a TV commercial jingle. They
love to move, Cristina thought with a smile.
They get that f rom me. She’d been a high
school and college cheerleader and had even
cheered for a semipro football team. But as
happy memories resurfaced, suddenly, the
Nampa, Idaho, mom’s heart twinged.
Charlotte had developmental delays
and 1-year-old Kayden was born with mild
cerebral palsy (CP) and wore leg braces.
From experience, Cristina k new that many
organized activities were happy to include
k ids with specia l needs, but they were usu-
ally put in the back row and rarely got the
extra attention they needed to succeed.
They deserve better, she thought, and
shared her feelings on Facebook. Special

A former cheerleader, Cristina Rood longed for her two young children to know the
excitement and pride that came from being part of a cheer team. But both her son and
daughter had special needs, and she couldn’t find a program designed for kids with their
abilities. So she decided to dig out her old pom-poms and form a team of her own!

Being^ part^ of^ Mitchie’s^
Mustangs^ cheer^ squad^
helps^ kids^ with^ special^
needs^ develop^ self-
esteem^ and^ confidence^


The cheerleaders and their families lend their
spirit to a variety of local sporting events

Team founder
Cristina Rood

10 4/13/20^ Woma n’s World

Free download pdf