Jacqueline Site, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A group of cheerleaders in the Oklahoma City can do it all-- from jumps to cartwheels to dancing, but now the special needs cheer team needs help so they can compete for the national title.

Decked out in their uniforms, the Shining Starz cheerleaders said they are proud to be part of their squad and are training to compete in Dallas next month for a national competition.

Some of the boys and girls on the team have developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome while others have autism or physical disabilities, but they never let any of that get in the way from having a great time.

Coach Gina Fowler said cheer means more than just winning, it's the rewards of seeing the smiling faces on the floor.

"Tears in my eyes every time they perform. Most of the competitions in the performances they received standing ovations, and it's a blessing to see how happy they are in something that they love to do and something normal that they have a chance to experience too," said Gina Fowler, Shining Starz Cheer Team coach.

Rachel Hughes joined the Shining Starz Special Needs Cheer Squad for the first time this year. Rachel's mother Julie Hughes watches her daughter practice every week and said cheer brings a sense of normalcy for team members.

"A lot of them have siblings that are in school cheer, and they've wanted to do this and couldn't and the fact that they can do this makes them very emotional and very heartwarming to see," Julie Hughes said.

Now to make it to the national competition, the team needs the public's help. There will be a Zumbathon fundraiser next Saturday at Crossroads Mall at the old Steve and Barry's location from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for $10 a person. All the money will help the cheerleaders compete in Dallas at the end of February.

The Applebee's Flapjack Fundraiser is Saturday, January 29 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Applebee's in Moore. Tickets are $6 and can be purchased ahead of time from any team member or at the door.

The squad's goal is to fundraise $11,000.

Donations can be made to the team at:
Oklahoma Twisters
Shining Starz
3400 Bart Conners Dr.
Norman, OK 73072