Maryland Twisters "Eye of the Storm" cheerleading team

Photo by Suzanne Kennedy

They came together because of their love for cheering and because they all have special needs.

Thirty-year-old Jimmy Myrick has been a part of the Maryland Twisters "Eye of the Storm" cheerleading team in Glen Burnie for a decade.

“At first we started it was small,” explained Myrick. “Now it’s big. I love it.”

Myrick has down syndrome and leukemia and is in a wheelchair. His two dozen teammates are autistic. Some have neurological disorders. But none of them let their challenges stop them from cheering.

“Eye of the Storm” recently placed first in a national competition for special needs squads. It was a huge achievement for these performers.

Cheerleading can be an expensive sport. From uniforms to travel to coaches, the costs add up. But these team members pay nothing. The money to cover their participation is raised completely by other non-special needs teams at the Maryland Twisters gym.

The team trains eleven months out of the year. Parents say it’s an opportunity for their children to grow - experiencing a sport just like other kids.

“It’s made him more social than he was when we started,” said Sharon Myrick, Jimmy’s mother. “He is proud of himself. He holds himself high. He holds his shoulders back. His head is always up.”

There are no tryouts. Everyone makes the team. All it takes is dedication and a desire to be included.