Seven-year-old Izabella Wynn of Juniata, nicknamed Bella, got a surprise visit during her birthday party June 10 from a group of Hastings High School cheerleaders, but the cheerleaders ended up being the ones surprised.
The cheerleaders had taken an interest in Bella, whom has Down syndrome, after the 2016-17 cheerleader co-captains, Kailea Hauner and Rachael Wolfe, met her.
Kailea’s mother, Gena, is the assistant volunteer cheer coach and works with Bella’s mother, Betsy Wynn.
Kailea and Rachael, both entering their senior year in high school, took Bella to the Children’s Museum and enjoyed spending time with the girl.
“She’s a great little girl,” Rachael said.
Rachael said the cheerleaders wanted to be more involved in the community and helping Bella was a way they felt they could make a difference.
The cheerleaders decided to attend Bella’s birthday party Saturday to provide face painting for party-goers. The cheerleaders also raised $100 to go toward a present for Bella, but didn’t know what to buy.
Gena talked to Betsy and the two hatched an idea that surpassed simply helping Bella.
Instead of buying another gift for Bella, Betsy wanted to pay the gift forward.
Gena mentioned creating a cheer program for children with special needs and Betsy liked the idea. They decided to call the program Bella’s Cheer and it’s slated to start in about a month.
With volunteer help from Gena and the cheerleaders, the plan is to develop cheers that can be done by children of all ability levels. The goal is to have the program free of charge and keep it going as long as people want to participate.
The cheerleaders found out about the new cheer program during Saturday’s birthday party.
Sharya Maestas, a sophomore member of the group, was impressed with the idea of creating a new cheer program.
“I thought it was a really good idea,” she said. “I think they’ll have a lot of fun with it.”
This year’s captains are yet to be chosen, but Rachael and Kailea hope to continue helping out in the community.
Betsy said she thinks the group of cheerleaders are great, especially going above and beyond to try to get Bella another gift.
“I was really touched that they decided to do that,” she said. “I appreciate them spending time with my daughter because they are setting a good example for her.”
For more information about the cheer program, contact Gena Hauner at 402-984-8783 or firstname.lastname@example.org.