BENTON, Ark. — About a thousand people flocked to the Benton Event Center Sunday to support hundreds of cheerleaders.
But one team in particular got extra love: Empire Inspire.
Inspire is a special needs cheer program that started at Empire Cheer in Benton five years ago.
The squad is geared to include cheerleaders of all abilities and promotes inclusion.
"They range from sweet Anna who is in a wheelchair and some of the girls just need help,” said Daniel Allen, Inspire coach.
The Inspire program comes at no cost to parents, allowing them to just sit back and enjoy watching their children’s accomplishments.
“They are a full scholarship program,” Allen said.
"I love just getting to cheer them on,” said Amanda Crow, an Inspire cheer mom. “I'm their biggest cheerleader. I wear the cheer mom shirts, you know."
Inspire Red and White squads took the floor Sunday. Roughly 1,000 people showed up to participate in “Empire Day,” which proceeds went to support the Inspire program.
"What we are doing today is trying to raise money to make sure their program stays alive,” Allen said.
From the cheer uniforms to the equipment they use, every dollar counts.
"Every accomplishment is just so much bigger when your child has disabilities,” Crow said. “Those milestones mean a lot more."
Crow believes the importance of the program remaining means their kids have a chance.
"It builds sportsmanship and for kids with disabilities it’s hard to find things for them to be in,” Crow said.
Allen said the United States Allstar Federation recently announced the Cheer Abilities program.
It's a nation-wide competitive division where special needs programs from all around are scored at competitions.