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Features

'I had no idea how far we’d take it'

Joliet-area special needs cheer team will compete at Disney

The Joliet-area Cheer Dynasty/Team Illinois is one of seven teams USA Cheer, the national governing body for cheer, will field in the Adaptive Abilities and Special Olympics divisions at the 2020 International Cheer Union (ICU) World Cheerleading Championships,
The Joliet-area Cheer Dynasty/Team Illinois is one of seven teams USA Cheer, the national governing body for cheer, will field in the Adaptive Abilities and Special Olympics divisions at the 2020 International Cheer Union (ICU) World Cheerleading Championships,

When Kaylee Pellack was a cheerleader, her sister wanted to participate in cheer, too.

Except that Ashlee East, now 32, had cerebral palsy and teams for students with disabilities didn’t widely exist.

So Pellack, now a special education teacher with Matteson District 162, started one of her own in the Joliet area.

And that team is now off to Disney World.

Cheer Dynasty/Team Illinois is one of seven teams USA Cheer, the national governing body for cheer, will field in the Adaptive Abilities and Special Olympics divisions at the 2020 International Cheer Union (ICU) World Cheerleading Championships, according to a news release from USA Cheer.

The event takes place April 27 to April 29 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort.

The team’s GoFundMe page has a goal of $3,000, which will be used for expenses such as clothing, entrance fees, hotel and airfare.

Members of Pellack’s cheer team range in age from 11 to 32 and have various special needs.

“We have everything from cerebral palsy and Down syndrome to those who are hard of hearing, intellectual disabilities and autism,” Pellack  said.

Each special needs cheerleader has a buddy athlete to help them with the routines and keep and eye on them at competitions.

Danaka Krall of Joliet said her daughter Kelly Krall, a senior at Joliet West High School, is one the team's junior coaches, and Danaka is a former "team mom" who used to travel with the team to competitions, she said.

Pellack is pleased how the far the team has come. Her team is now at a level 2, which is "very, very high for a special needs team," she said.

“Honestly when I started the program five years ago, I had no idea how far we’d take it.” “It’s been fun to watch them develop and grow. It’s become almost like family at this time.”

Even better than being able to share her passion for cheerleader is experiencing East enjoying that same passion.

“She absolutely loves getting to do what I used to do,” Pellack said.

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