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Tyler gym creates special needs cheerleading team


POSTED: Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 9:45pm

UPDATED: Sunday, August 17, 2014 - 12:25am

Many parents struggle with finding activities for their special needs child, but a gym in Tyler has a new option for these parents. Gym Tyler Gymnastics has a new program just for children with special needs. It's called Team Inspire. It is a cheer team that will travel around Texas for competitions. Kim Johnson dreamed of starting a special needs cheer team for years.

"They need programs for them just like the other kids do," said Johnson.

Her dream is finally coming true. Team Inspire, a group of cheerleaders with special needs, will start practice at Johnson's gym in September. So far, about 15 cheerleaders are interested in the program.

"I believe that...God has taken over, and I'm just overwhelmed at the response," said Johnson.

Johnson had a clinic for the cheerleaders. Then, they performed at a UT Tyler basketball game.

"These kids gave 110% every time they walked out on the floor. They had a smile on their face. They did every motion. They did every jump to the best of their capability," said Johnson.

8- year-old Ava will be on the team.

"I am so excited," said Ava Penkilo.

"As a mom, my heart is just going to be bursting with joy. She's so excited about it, and we're so excited about it," said Ava's mom, Monica Penkilo.

Johnson said the first clinic was a huge success, and the kids had a blast.

"Oh, they smiled through the entire thing," said Johnson.

Ava loves spending time in the gym.

"She was thrilled. She kept saying 'I'm gonna do what my sister does,'" said Penkilo.

"I love cheerleading," said Ava.

Penkilo said Johnson is changing her daughter's life.

Johnson said Team Inspire is inspiring her.

"It has just touched my heart," said Johnson.

Parents and future participants are invited to the Team Inspire open house from 2-3 p.m. Sunday. The first fifteen participants will receive shoes and a uniform free of charge. The gym will not profit from the program. There will only be a $15 charge per participant to pay for team activities. Practices are scheduled every other Sunday starting September 7th.

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