Cheerleader with special needs the ‘glue’ of Bountiful High School’s squad

Posted at 10:01 PM, Aug 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-23 00:01:34-04

BOUNTIFUL, Utah -- Olivia Larson’s dream has always been to be a cheerleader, and Friday night, that dream became a reality.

She made the cheer squad at Bountiful High School and cheered at her first game against Lone Peak. The sassy 18-year-old senior who always has something to say said she was actually a bit nervous to cheer in her first high school football game, but she said the idea of the crowd cheering for her is what she was most excited about.

As Olivia took to the field, the rain didn’t dampen her excitement or school spirit.

“I’m just excited tonight because the whole crowd will just clap,” she said.

Olivia has Turner Syndrome and Hypomelanosis of Ito, affecting her physically because of the missing X chromosome, and mentally from large spaces in the brain. Still, Olivia was determined and announced at the end of last year she was trying out for the cheer squad.

Her mother said: “I looked at her and I said, ‘You are? That is so awesome.’ But inside I was just OK, what do we do? How do we make this happen? Can it happen, and would they want that? And sometimes not everybody is understanding.”

But the cheer coaches at Bountiful High thought having Olivia on the team would be a great thing for all of the girls, and they said Olivia is the glue that holds the team together.

Cheer Captain Reagan Tidwell said: “ She’s our cheerleader. She’s the cheerleader for the cheerleaders. She keeps us motivated. She keeps us happy. She just keeps us going.”

Kristalynn Appiah adds, “She’s always just there to tell us when to stop complaining and keep going and it’s great.”

Olivia has as much admiration for her cheer mates as they do for her.

“I just like it and they just tell me to run and they cheer for me,” Olivia said.

As the crowd in the stands cheer during the game, it’s the cheering this cheerleader says she’s been looking forward to her whole life.

“Just go Braves and I like it,” Olivia said.

She did have to try out for the team. Coaches wanted Olivia to have that experience. She can’t do all of the tumbling and stunts the other cheerleaders can, but she’s there for the morning practices and joined the team for their overnight retreat.