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Young women create a miracle on the tumbling mats in KC’s Northland.

The Rainbow Cheer Team includes members who have special needs.
The Rainbow Cheer Team includes members who have special needs.
The Kansas City Star

Former Liberty High School Cheerleader, Erin Schmeltz, has created a miracle on the tumbling mats at a gym in Kansas City’s Northland. The Rainbows, a group of cheerleaders who practice out of the home of Fury Athletics, off of Pleasant Valley Road, have taken on the competition involved in club cheerleading, and Schmeltz has led the way.

However, Schmeltz has taken on a very special group of kids and made them into a cheerleading team. The kids on her cheerleading squad have disabilities of some kind, from Down Syndrome to Asburger syndrome… From being in a wheelchair to needing to wear earplugs during the performances--this cheerleading team has overcome it ALL! With the help of Schmeltz and her co-coaches and volunteers, these active cheerleaders have learned discipline and routines. They have learned to follow directions and act as a team.

During a recent competition at Municipal Auditorium, Coach Schmeltz made it clear to those running the show that the music was not to be played too loudly, because that had been a problem at a prior competition. Schmeltz was ready to go out and turn the music down herself if it presented a problem for her kiddos. She is a “mama-bear” when it comes to her kids (Gutierrez 1). That quality is SO appreciated and NEEDED in any person who mentors young people. Especially when kids have circumstances beyond their control that work against them, it is especially important to show these kids that someone is in their corner and going to ‘step up’ for them no matter what.

Another Rainbow coach is Staci Hites, who understands that while instructing these special young kiddos, every adult has to be at the top of their game regarding patience and not getting overly emotional. She has, “coached the Rainbows from the beginning, when she started working at the gym as a college student. She’d coached athletes with special needs before and was learning to be a special education teacher” (Gutierrez 1).

This team is committed toward treating these children the way all children should be treated—with dignity, love, respect and boundaries. The Rainbows have created a team of kids who are special, not a team of ‘special kids’. The leaders of this team have created a Miracle on the Mat—one that should be copied in all communities. Bless them for helping these gifted kids share the special gifts they have with others.

Gutierrez, Lisa. “Rah, Rah Rainbows: Enthusiastic Squad of Special-Needs Children Has Plenty to Cheer About.” The Kansas City Star; The Kansas City Star Magazine: January 25, 2014.