Inspirational

Cheerleader With Down Syndrome Mocked, Basketball Players Stop Game to Help

cheerleader with down syndrome

Bullying is a pervasive issue for kids from elementary through high school. It happens online and in person, and it can have devastating consequences. Fortunately, the most effective antidote is when peers stand up for the person who is being bullied. In the case of one cheerleader with down syndrome who was being mocked by students from the opposing team, three young men who stood up for her, redirected the course of the entire school culture.

The Cheerleader With Down Syndrome

Desiree Andrews is a middle school cheerleader at Lincoln Middle School in Wisconsin. This 14-year-old is cheerful and enthusiastic—the perfect characteristics for someone leading the crowd to cheer for their team.

So how did she become interested in cheerleading? After becoming an avid fan of Glee, Desiree decided she wanted to become a cheerleader because she saw cheerleaders in action in the television show. According to her dad, Cliff Andrews, being a cheerleader has been a boost for her self-esteem.

One friend shared, “Desiree is an awesome cheerleader who is always eager to give the players high-fives and fist-bumps as a sign of support.”

Only one day when she stood on the sidelines cheering for a basketball game, it was she who needed the support. Apparently, some students from the opposing team noticed this cheerleader with down syndrome and began mocking her from the stands.

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Three Basketball Players Stand Up Against Bullying

Three other middle school students, Chase Vasquez, Miles Rodriguez, and Scooter Terrien were on the basketball court at the time, when they noticed what was happening. The three young men consider Desiree a friend, calling her D; so they weren’t happy to see this bullying occur.

Chase Vasquez shared about the event. He said, “The kids in the audience were picking on D, so we all stepped forward.”

The three middle school basketball players stopped the game in its tracks.

“We were mad,” Miles Rodriguez explained. “We didn’t like that. We asked our sports director to talk to the people and tell them not to make fun of her.”

When the other players on the Lincoln Middle School team noticed that Desiree was being bullied and saw their three teammates standing up for her, they too asked for a timeout and left the court.

But this wasn’t the end of their support for sweet Desiree, the cheerleader with down syndrome.

After that day, the boys began walking her to class to make sure she was safe and treated with respect. According to the school, what Chase, Miles, and Scooter did that day of the basketball game and since then has changed the culture of the school in profound ways. School officials noted bullying to be reduced significantly, and other students have begun to stand up against unkindness and bullying.

After this outstanding act, these three young men won the Musial Award, which is given to athletes who show “exceptional kindness and humanity.”

But this wasn’t the end of their support for sweet Desiree, the cheerleader with down syndrome.

After that day, the boys began walking her to class to make sure she was safe and treated with respect. According to the school, what Chase, Miles, and Scooter did that day of the basketball game and since then has changed the culture of the school in profound ways. School officials noted bullying to be reduced significantly, and other students have begun to stand up against unkindness and bullying.

When asked what she thinks of what the boys did to stand up for her, Desiree said, they are “sweet, kind, awesome, amazing!”

And this cheerleader’s father? He reportedly cried grateful tears when he heard how Chase, Miles, and Scooter protect his daughter.

Desiree even acted as her dad’s cheerleader when she saw how he reacted to the event. According to him, “She threw her hands around me and made me look at her face.” He explained she said to him, “Papa it’s okay. I still love them even if they don’t like me.”

In honor of Desiree, Lincoln Middle School ended up naming the gym “D’s House,” noting that the name Desiree symbolizes friendship for them. Timothy Nieman, the athletic director hung a banner with the gym’s new name. Explaining how touched he was by the three basketball players’ actions, he said, “This is what standing up, being a true team, not only a basketball team but a team of people that are going support somebody.

Other Cheerleaders’ Stories

Desiree isn’t the only cheerleader with down syndrome. There are others with inspiring stories, like AnnCatherine Heigl in Fairfax, Virginia. She is reportedly the only collegiate cheerleader with down syndrome. Watch her story here:

AnnCatherine is a flyer, and when asked what her favorite part about cheerleading is, she said “I like everything. I like to be up in the air. I like being on a team with other people.”

On the other hand, Desiree’s and AnnCatherine’s positive stories haven’t been the case across the country with others who are the cheerleader with down syndrome at their schools. Like, one Utah junior high student, Morgyn Arnold who was left out of her team’s photo in their school yearbook.

So which side of the story are you going to be on?

Jessica Goldsmith
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Jessica Goldsmith is a writer and editor of Christian resource, news, and information.

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