MANATEE — In just a few weeks, 16-year-old Brittany Ormsby will return to the gym and pick up right where she left off nearly four months ago.
She’ll take her place at the top of the cheese mat; and with the assistance of her coaches, the Dynasty Elite cheerleader will begin flipping her way down the mat. With each new attempt, Ormsby will advance one step closer to mastering a backbend kickoff — a skill that neither she nor her mother, Victoria, thought would ever be possible.
Ormsby, a Lakewood Ranch resident, joined Dynasty Elite’s Emeralds special needs team last year, and since then she has continually developed both physically and mentally while becoming an instrumental part of the 14-member squad.
“She’s learning to do things she’s never done before,” Victoria Ormsby said of her daughter. “Her physical abilities have definitely improved, but the biggest benefit is really just the camaraderie … just the friendships she’s made and the increase in her self-esteem with the competitions. It’s being a part of a larger team.”
The Emeralds squad was formed last year after Dynasty Elite owner Rena’ Doniger watched another special needs team perform at a competition and immediately saw the benefits of offering a similar program at Dynasty Elite.
The team is open to children of all ages with varying degrees of special needs, including auditory processing problems, speech and language delays, autism, ADHD and physical and mental disabilities, among others.
“The overall goal is to give them an opportunity to grow confidently while enriching their lives forever,” Doniger said. “Dynasty Elite is also giving so much to our other athletes who help coach this team. It teaches our athletes that we all have challenges throughout our lives, and they are so proud of our special needs team’s accomplishments because they realize how much effort they put in each week at practice.”
Participation in the Emeralds program is free with all necessary fees funded through the Gemstone Booster Club, grants, donations and sponsorships. Additionally, all Emeralds cheerleaders are given a uniform, cheerleading shoes and the opportunity to compete in several competitions throughout the year.
“At competition, the girls are so excited, and they really try their hardest,” said Lakewood Ranch resident Debbie Becker, whose 12-year-old daughter, Marlee, is on the squad. “They were just thrilled and it gave them a sense of pride that they could be something like that.”
With the assistance of coaches and other cheerleaders, the Emeralds are taught how to cheer, dance and tumble, among other skills. Last season, the Emeralds performed at three competitions, including the Florida State Fair in February, the World Spirit Federation in March and American Cheer Power April 18.
“I liked winning all of the trophies, and it was exciting because I got to win medals,” Brittany Ormsby said. “I was really happy and excited.”
Current members range in age from 8-22, and the squad always is looking for new members. The squad will begin practices the first week of August. Practices are from 4:30-5:45 p.m. every Wednesday
For more information on Dynasty Elite and its Emeralds, team visit its Web site at www.dynastyelitecheer.com.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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