Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review - Joining the island cheerleaders in their latest joyful noise are the members of the Spirit Squad, Bainbridge’s chapter of the Sparkle Effect, a national nonprofit organization that helps cheer squads create middle school, high school and college cheer and dance teams include students with disabilities who otherwise might not get the chance to cheer.

That’s the spirit! ‘Sparkle Effect’ team brings extra cheer to BHS squad

Sparkle!

That’s the latest call to arms extolled by the enthusiastic members of the Bainbridge High School cheer squad.

Along with “De-fense!” and “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” it’s quickly becoming a favorite.

Joining the island cheerleaders in their latest joyful noise are the members of the Spirit Squad, Bainbridge’s chapter of the Sparkle Effect, a national nonprofit organization that helps cheer squads create middle school, high school and college cheer and dance teams include students with disabilities who otherwise might not get the chance to cheer.

The Spirit Squad gave their first performance at the first football game of the year, in the second quarter.

It was, BHS cheer squad Head Coach Tawnya Jackson said, a rousing success. Starting the program, the coach said, had been something she’d considering for a while in light of inquiries from would-be participants and members of the cheer squad.

“I have worked with many of the students at Woodward,” she said. “There were some parents that expressed interest in creating something for their kids and from that I did some research and reached out to the national organization that ran the Spirit Squad. From there, we had phone calls, in-person meetings and essentially agreed to follow the protocol of the national program and in return we received grants and program assistance.”

The BHS Spirit Squad currently boasts 20 girls, six with disabilities, 11 without, two captains (Alyssa Rasmussen and Claire Sweeney) and a dedicated manager (Giselle Hausman).

“The Sparkle Effect has strict guidelines in place,” Jackson said. “They sent a trainer to us to help set up and educate the coach and captains.

“I chose the girls without disabilities from the varsity cheer squad. I first asked for volunteers and then I chose those who I felt would be a good fit for the squad.”

The roster includes: Mollie Alpaugh, Ella Arvish, Larsen Braswell, Keara Callahan, Charlotte Crampton, Ella Greene, Emma Guthrie, Katie Hughes, Victoria Kleiven, Lily Lucas, Alex Miller, Maddie O’Reilly, Paige Philby, Hayley Stoulil, Emma Thomas, Adi Ulehla and Kathryn Wangthemkua.

The program has been a hit from the start, Jackson said.

“Everything actually ran quite smoothly due to the organizational help of the Sparkle Effect Program, great help from the existing cheer squad, school district, parents and of course, the kids were really excited,” she said.

The benefits, for both the cheer squad and the Spirit Squad members, are already apparent, she added.

“The cheer squad has done a fabulous job of assisting the Spirit Squad with routines and protocol, and I’d say just look at the smiles of the kids involved in the Spirit Squad,” Jackson said. “That tells it all.”

The Spirit Squad will perform with the cheer team at all home football and basketball games this school year.

Having been involved with the sport for some time, and in several capacities, Jackson said programs like National Sparkle Effect and other similar efforts to be more inclusive are a very good thing for cheerleading.

“I think cheer is one area where being more inclusive is a good thing,” she said.

“Not everyone can do everything, so I try to find areas where all kids can excel and feel good about their contribution, regardless of level of skill.”

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