Yatesville, Luzerne County -- Cheers filled the gymnasium at Pittston Area High School in Yatesville on Sunday. Hundreds of cheerleaders demonstrated their best spirit, stunts and jumps. Five Pittston Area Cheerleaders sponsored the competition as a National Honor Society project. Their reason for hosting the event had an even greater purpose. "We wanted to make it meaningful so we wanted to make an organization and we figured the best way to do it was to helping another cheerleading team so we decided to help the special needs team Fire from Keystone Extreme," said Pittston Area High School Cheerleader and senior Bridget Starinsky.
13 recreation cheerleading groups and six high school cheer squads took part in this inaugural event to benefit the Olyphant-based Keystone Extreme Fire cheer squad. "I'm so excited for our first time we actually got so many people to come out. It's a great thing. I'm so grateful for it," said Pittston Area High School Cheerleader and senior Jennifer Mataloni.
Keystone Extreme Fire's founder and coach Denise Olewnik is honored the cheerleaders wanted to help. "It took me by complete surprise and I just think it's awesome that people in this community care so much about our kids." Despite disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and down syndrome, members of Keystone Extreme Fire have no shortage of spirit. "I am really excited to perform and we're going to rock it and we're going to try our hardest," said 11-year-old Keystone Extreme Fire cheerleader Reilly Lindsey. Her squad often travels to national and international competitions -- trips that are often costly given the cheerleaders' special needs. "They need so much and they need to stay in handicap accessible hotel rooms and they can't just make a day trip," said Ms. Olewnik. Pittston Area cheerleaders who love to cheer are glad they can share that passion with the special squad. "All the money that we raised goes toward their team for them to keep cheering and for their uniforms and so those children are able to cheer just like we are," said Ms. Starinsky.
Keystone Extreme Fire began about six-years ago in Olyphant. The squad accepts special needs cheerleaders from 3-years-old to no age limit. You can learn about registering a special needs cheerleader with the squad by calling 855-532-4337.