HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – High school athletics can do so much for the student athlete. It can teach them how to lead through example, how to conquer fear, and how to inspire others.

Mya Zucker, Aly Landauer and Caroline Elliott are three girls with one thing in common — they’ve always wanted to be on the cheerleading squad at Highlands Ranch High School.

“I’ve wanted to be on this cheer squad for like two years,” Zucker said. “I’ve always talked about it. I’ve always told my mom that I just wanted to be on it so badly.”

As bad as the girls wanted to be on the team, however, there was one obstacle that seemed to be in the way – all three girls have special needs.

“I just have like a learning disability, so it’s just hard for me to process things in school, so I just take different classes,” Zucker said.

Elliott is a senior whose disability hasn’t been classified.

“I’d say that today, she’s 18, so I think today they’d put her in the autism spectrum because that has gone on to be just such a huge umbrella,” Elliott’s mother Barbara Tkocz said. “She has a lot of sensory issues and things like that.”

Aly Landauer is a junior whose disability also hasn’t been classified.

“She just has global delays. We’ve noticed it when she was about 18 months old,” her mother Jennifer Landauer said. “They’ve never been able to diagnose her with anything.”

What they may lack in some areas, they make up for in persistence. They wanted to cheer and one decided to take matters into her own hands.

“Well, one of them came up to me last year and kept telling me that she wanted to cheer. She was like, ‘I want to cheer, I want cheer, I want to cheer,’ “ cheerleading coach Brooke Montano said. “So kind of thought of, ‘Why not have them here? Let them cheer for their high school and be a part of their school in a big way.’ ”

So the girls were added to the squad, but they needed uniforms and they aren’t cheap. Montano didn’t want the parents of the new girls to have to incur the cost, so she came up with an idea.

“I found a fundraising guy and he approached me with the fundraising, and I told him that I wanted to make the first fundraiser that they did – selling the popcorn – to raise money for our unified kids for their uniforms,” Montano said.

So the varsity squad sprang into action going door-to-door selling popcorn so their newest teammates could have new uniforms at no cost.

“I was actually really excited because I knew it was for a good cause,” cheerleader Lauren Juracka said. “I actually am a coach at Peaks Athletics for the Stars Team and I knew a few of these girls before and I really wanted to help them out.”

So with that out of the way there was really only one thing left — practice and get ready to cheer at their very first Highlands Ranch game. Last Friday night Elliott and Zucker made their varsity cheerleading debut. Landauer, who just joined the squad this week, will cheer in the next game.


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