Providing endless smiles and confidence, meet the Sparkettes

Every Friday at 6 PM, a team of 27 girls and their coaches gather at Performer’s Edge Dance Studio in Carmel for cheer practice.

It provides another opportunity for the Special Olympics of Hamilton County Pom Squad to practice their routine ahead of an upcoming performance, either at a community event or cheerleading competition.

Also known as the Sparkettes, the Special Olympics of Hamilton County Pom Squad has provided young athletes ages 10 & older a chance to practice and compete together for more than 10 years.

In the month of January, the pom squad had halftime performances at Noblesville High School, Fishers High School and Guerin Catholic High School basketball games, along with a competition at JAMfest Cheer Super Nationals. In addition to basketball games, and multiple competitions, the Sparkettes also perform at Spark Fishers Street Festival to round out a busy annual schedule.

While the pom squad receives competition scores based on performance and cheer abilities, there’s more to take away than competition scores.

“We review our scores, but we also work on striving to be successful as a team, which includes being on time, showing up to practices, and improving our scores as well,” said Sparkettes head coach Kim Weninger. “That really helps build a sense of pride in their team and wanting to do well.”

With the team made up of students from a number of Hamilton County schools, three Sparkettes are also pursuing their high school diploma as students of Options Schools, and have each enjoyed a number of aspects that come with being on the pom squad.

“I most enjoy seeing people smile and they can just be themselves,” said Maddie Reiff, a junior at Options and eighth-year Sparkette. “What I have learned is to just be yourself. It doesn’t matter who’s watching you perform as long as you’re enjoying yourself and having a good time.”

“At first I was nervous, but eventually I just embraced it because I realized it was a great opportunity to be myself and I also really enjoy it,” said  Mikayla Reed, an Options junior and second-year Sparkette. “It also made me realize that no matter what your abilities are, it is important to be confident in yourself.”

The Special Olympics of Hamilton County Pom Squad has provided some girls a chance to explore cheer, and others a chance to experience cheer in a new environment.

“I was previously part of another cheer group that wasn’t working out, so I decided to give the pom squad a try after hearing about it and I was immediately welcomed by so many girls and that helped me come out of my shell.” said Natalie DeWitt, Options freshman and second-year Sparkette. “It’s helped me grow confidence and realize that no matter what obstacles are in your way, if you put your mind to something you can accomplish your goals. It is such a great environment, where everyone is always smiling.”

Those endless smiles are infectious throughout practices, performances and competitions, and it is all based in being a place where girls can be a part of a team and know that they belong.

“It is a lot of fun for them and this is their team, and you don’t always have that for a lot of kids, especially in some of these larger high schools around here,” said coach Kim. “We have ladies with all different abilities, but when they get on the stage, they all perform and it’s awesome to see them all come together.”

* About Options Schools *
Founded in 2002, Options Schools are free, public charter schools serving grade 6-12 students in all 92 school districts in the state of Indiana. With a high-quality, individualized approach to education, Options Schools specializes in providing students with an inclusive environment, unparalleled support, and a student-to-teacher ratio of 15-to-1. With brick-and-mortar campuses in Noblesville and Westfield, Options also offers additional programs in virtual & in-person formats.