Julie Fine, NBC 5 News
Sparkle Scots, a cheerleading squad comprised of special needs girls, shined when they cheered at Highland Park High School's football game. The high school is part of a nationwide program called The Sparkle Effect that encourages girls with special needs to cheer.
A group of cheerleaders with special needs joined Highland Park High School's cheer squad on the field for homecoming.
Five students with disabilities are a part of the Sparkling Scots, which is part of the Sparkle Effect, a national program for inclusive cheer and dance programs.
"It is awesome -- the greatest thing that could ever happen to me," member Kathleen Gamso said.
The girls they cheer with don't see their special needs -- just that they are special.
"As we started going, it was rewarding to see what we were learning," cheerleader Gabby Crank said.
"I think they are totally awesome, and they are sweet," said Allie Wells, a Sparking Scot.
Each Sparkling Scot has a squad sister who helps them learn the cheers. Along the way, they get to know each other and build friendships that extend beyond the field.
"We have built our relationships a lot, because they are always with us and we love them so much," Peyton Ward said.
More than 100 Sparkle teams have formed across the nation, according to the Sparkle Effect's website. The group offers a downloadable kit that helps interested students launch Sparkle groups at their schools.
Kelly Waterman brought the program to Highland Park High School after her daughter was involved in it at another district. Halfway through her presentation of the idea, the principal said the school would make it happen.
This year, the Sparkling Scots cheered in three of the games.
"It's just heartwarming, not only to see how happy they are, but just to see the acceptance from the student body," Waterman said.