Spirit Zone Too's special needs team the 'Alexandrites' are ready to take the competition by storm this year.
Coach Melissa Mansi said, "We doubled our numbers this year. We know have 6 athletes with special needs and 5 helpers. We have reduced the amount of helpers because the kids are really independent so we've pushed our skills. The kids are able to do a lot of things on their own which is great."
The 'Alexandrites' are made of girls and boys with varying disabilities, with the help of cheerleaders from several Greenwich Public Schools.
Gabby, one of the Alexandrites said her favorite part about cheerleading is dancing.
Callie Barr, one of the 'Alexandrites' assistants on the team said, "I see this team not as a special needs team but as real athletes. They all strive to do the same thing - just to get better at what they do. That what I see. I see through their disability and see what their true potential is.
"They are so nice and friendly. They are a wonderful group of kids and I love helping them. I just want to give them all the experiences of cheerleading because maybe, they thought that they couldn't do it but they all can," said Courtney Roina, one of the 'Alexandrites' assistants.
Alexis Zeballos is also an 'Alexandrites' assistant. She said, "I love building the relationships with the kids. They are a wonderful group of kids to work with and they are awesome and they want to learn what to do with cheerleading and it's great to help them out."
Coaches say watching the athletes grow and learn is inspiring.
"It is just incredible to see how much they have all grown. Two months ago walking in they gym and seeing how shy they all were and even just motions wise. Their motions were not where they are now and just watching them grow practice to practice and flourish with each other and building relationships within the team has just been incredible to watch," said Coach Cori Iannazzo.
Erica Smith, one of the assistants on the team said, "I really want to share my love of the sport with all these girls. I love coming to practice and seeing all of them smile and see how happy they are."
Coach Mansi added, "It opens up an opportunity for kids who may think they don't have the opportunity [to cheer] but it also opens up the eyes of the other athletes in the gym to see what other kids are capable of doing."
The 'Alexandrites' take the competition mat in two weeks for the All-Star Challenge's Return to Atlantis competition in Baltimore. For more information about the 'Alexandrites' visit www.CTSpirit.com.