The Wildcats cheerleaders at Cheer Alliance gym in St. Charles dance, tumble and of course, cheer.
They wear sparkly costumes and big hair ribbons, attend competitions and support local football teams.
There’s not much that sets them apart from other cheerleaders in the area.
“They know more than people give them credit for,” said Coach Kelly Roule, who leads the Wildcats cheerleading program for young people in the Chicago area with disabilities. “They amaze me every moment.”
The Wildcats team currently boasts 22 members, ranging from 3 to 22 years old. Several disabilities are represented on the team and cheerleaders do as much as they can based on their ability level.
Roule coaches the Wildcats with her daughter, Allie, a junior at Glenbard West High School. The Glen Ellyn residents have volunteered with the team for more than five years.
Allie is a Glenbard West cheerleader, and the Wildcats recently joined the school’s varsity cheerleaders to perform at a home football game Sept. 28.
The Wildcats received a great response from the other cheerleaders, football players and fans, the Roules said.
Some of the girls even took photos with members of the football team, prompting them to declare that those photogenic football stars were their favorite part of cheering at the game.
Besides getting the chance to be high school cheerleaders for a day, being part of the Wildcats has provided many other advantages for the cheerleaders.
For Melissa Temesvary, 18, of Bartlett, cheerleading has benefitted her social skills, said her mom, Mary Beth.
It was Melissa’s idea to start cheerleading after seeing the cheerleaders at her younger brother’s football games, Mary Beth said.
The team also has helped Ariana Siannas, 8, of Naperville, come out of her shell, according to her mom.
“It just gives her kind of this connection with the other girls to be part of that team,” Wendy Siannas said.
Sara Davis, 11, of Downers Grove, said her favorite part of cheerleading is the stunts.
Before joining the Wildcats, she cheered with another team for about two years. Her reason for cheering is simple.
“Because I love it,” Sara said.
The Wildcats practice from noon to 1 p.m. every Sunday at Cheer Alliance. Their season lasts from September through April.
Aside from uniform costs, there is no fee to be part of the team.
The Roules started coaching the Wildcats while Allie was a cheerleader herself at Cheer Alliance.
Kelly Roule had long been a volunteer with Special Olympics before working with the Wildcats and her children volunteered the organization when they were young.
For the Wildcat parents, the calling the Roules have for working with their children is clear.
“They love our kids,” said Sara’s mom, Marcy.
But it’s not just the kids who are on the receiving end of the Wildcats magic.
“To me, it’s been the most amazing gift,” Kelly Roule said.