Celebrating JOY


Photo courtesy of Sydney Bryon

Joy and WJ cheer performs during halftime at the football game.The crowd cheers extra loud for the exciting entertainment.

The whole crowd was rocking as WJ varsity football took on Richard Montgomery, thanks to the Special Olympics of Montgomery County (SOMO) JOY cheerleading team.

The WJ cheer team welcomed the SOMO JOY cheerleading team as they carried on the tradition of cheering together for one football game each year.

JOY provides children and adults with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in both a competitive and non-competitive cheerleading environment.

JOY Cheer competes against other cheer squads from counties throughout Maryland and has also competed against squads from around the world, most recently taking home the gold medal at the International Cheer Union World Championships in Orlando, Florida last spring. The BEYOND JOY program is a non-competitive sideline cheer program that attends dozens of events throughout the year, including a WJ football game.

JOY girls receive support from their parents on their cheerleading journeys.

“Watching my daughter cheer and dance is the best feeling, and her confidence out there in front of the crowd makes me proud. Watching her cheer at WJ is extra special though because she’s treated with such respect and as part of WJ’s team. She’s not the girl with autism, she’s just a cheerleader,” JOY parent Marci Ruderman said.

Experienced cheerleaders, even high schoolers, are given the opportunity to coach this cheer team.

“Coaching them is a true blessing. They work so hard and form friendships that will last them a lifetime. I love being part of all of it,” senior varsity cheerleader Sydney Bryon said.

Coaches get the privilege of watching their team evolve and grow.

“The best part is seeing them go out there and perform. I love seeing the smiles on their faces,” Bryon said.

The evening of Friday, Oct. 4 started with dinner and socializing amongst the WJ and JOY girls. The dinner made the JOY girls feel comfortable and included in the WJ community.

After the dinner, everyone walked together to the football stadium to warm up. At the start of the game, each JOY girl was given a flower from one of the WJ football players. Every JOY girl received their own individual flowers, making them each feel equally important and appreciated. After they received the flowers, they were invited to run through the breakaway banner with the football team and to excite the crowd for the start of the game.

For the rest of the game, the track was filled with both JOY and WJ’s junior varsity and varsity cheer squads all cheering together.