“Who you rootin’ for?” yelled the cheerleaders. “DHS!” replied the crowd and the cheer begins again.
It was one of the cheers Arc of St. Charles clients learned when they recently served as cheerleaders at a Destrehan High School (DHS) football game, but it’ll forever live with Arianna Garay of Destrehan who decided they needed to be part of the experience.
“It really made me feel good inside,” Garay said of her senior project. “My intention was to do something based on cheer and something special. I think I got more than I wanted. I’m really proud of what I did.”
Garay, captain of DHS’ cheer team, has been cheering her entire life, including competition and school cheer at the games DHS football and basketball games.
She still reflects on one of the Arc clients saying to her, “Thank you so much for doing this for us.’ Garay added, “It was really, really sweet.”
What stood out to her was watching the seven Arc clients really get into the cheering and dancing, as well as the crowd equally getting into the experience.
“Seeing the crowd yell back to them … that was the best part,” Garay said. “Your disabilities do not determine your capabilities.”
Inclusion was this veteran cheerleader’s inspiration.
Initially, Garay reached out to the Arc in early September, asking if they’d be interested in cheering with her at a game. Seven names were provided – six women and a man – and all wanted in.
“They were good listeners,” Garay said of rehearsing with them.
While they worked on cheers, she prepared the things they’d need for a genuine cheerleading experience. She made megaphones with their names on them, as well as water bottles, and provided T-shirts saying, “All you need is love and cheers.”
“My intention was to do something based on cheer and something special. I think I got more than I wanted.” — Arianna Garay
Fellow cheerleaders loaned them their pom poms and they were equally excited about taking part in the experience.
“I’ve always loved cheers and it was different to teach it to different people and learning how to teach each one individually,” Garay said. “They have disabilities, but they were awesome at catching on. It just took a little more time.
“They had the biggest smile on their face. They were so happy about doing what we can do showing that for the crowd and that was such a good experience for me and for them.”
Who is Arc of St. Charles?
- A nonprofit organization in Boutte committed to providing services and supports that enable people of all ages with developmental and intellectual disabilities and special needs to attain their potential.
- Established in 1971 in St. Charles Parish.
- The organization serves the River Parishes, also Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary parishes.