One dream many young girls share is picturing themselves down the road being able to walk along the track of the football field getting their team’s fans fired up by performing the various cheers and dance routines as a member of the high school cheerleading squad.
Ten year old Elvira Carrales of Amarillo shares that same dream of being able to get a crowd pumped up by being a cheerleader.
Unfortunately, due to her battle with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), the odds are that Carrales will not have that opportunity, with doctors recently informing her family that the young lady is expected to lose her battle with the disease in a matter of months.
After hearing the story of Carrales and her dream of wanting to know what it is like to be a cheerleader, the West Texas High School Cheerleading squad is stepping up in a big way to make her dream come true for one day.
On Wednesday evening, June 29, people throughout the Texas Panhandle are invited and encouraged to come together at the Amarillo High School Gym for a special pep rally the West Texas High Cheerleaders are throwing for Elvira and her family starting at 5 p.m.
For those not familiar with SMA, the disease is characterized by muscle atrophy and loss of motor function, caused by the absence of or defect in the Survival Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1) gene.
SMA is characterized by a progressive loss of muscle control and movement and increasing weakness due to the loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord.
Proximal muscles (muscles closest to the center of the body, such as those in the trunk and neck) are more severely affected than distal muscles (muscles furthest from the center of the body, such as those in the hands and feet). Normal growth and development can place additional demands on already weakened muscles.
Because the muscles controlling breathing are affected by the disease, SMA can cause premature death. Life expectancy of SMA tends to vary by SMA types, which are generally associated with age of onset of symptoms. Children diagnosed with SMA Type I may survive for up to two years or longer, depending on their individual strength.
However, children with moderate to mild forms of SMA (SMA Types II and III) generally live into adulthood and could have a normal life expectancy.
Members of the WT squad became aware of Carrales’s condition due to the younger brother of West Texas cheerleader Chelsea Farmer having a similar illness, who is very good friends with Elvira.
When Elvira’s mom got news of her daughter’s short time by the doctors, she wanted to make sure her little girl’s dream came true. So she contacted Chelsea’s mother to see if the WT squad would be willing to just come and hang out with Elvira for the day.
On hearing the request, Chelsea contacted West Texas High Cheerleading sponsor Alicia Hardin about the request, which ultimately resulted in all of the girls on the cheerleading squad being more than willing to hang out with the young girl. However, they wanted to do even more, leading to the idea of a pep rally in Elvira’s honor.
According to West Texas High School Cheerleading sponsor Courtney Kirksey, a uniform, similar to those that the WT Cheerleaders will wear, will be given to Elvira to wear, along with other cheerleader items, such as bows, make-up, a mega phone and a cow bell to make the young girl truly become a part of the squad for the night.
On what is in store for the pep rally, Kirksey said, “One of the things we going to do [revolves around] some cheers we have altered to have Elvira’s name in them. Elvira will lead our cheerleaders on to the floor for the night to her favorite song, ‘I’ve Gotta Feeling,’ by the Black Eyed Peas. We also have band members, football players and several parents that have volunteered to help us with whatever we need for the evening.”
Prior to the pep rally, girls on the West Texas Cheerleading squad are going to hang out with Elvira and help her get ready for the big night.
Kirksey said the reason Amarillo High was chosen as the location for the pep rally was because the gym is close to Elvira’s house and traveling can be very taxing for Elvira and her family.
A book called “Elvira’s Fans” will be there for everyone to sign on the day of the event, and the WT Cheerleading squad is asking for people to come out to fill the stands to make it a special event.
Kirksey said the goal of the night is to make it a memorable one for Elvira and her family, saying, “We want for a moment to see their faces filled with joy and if we can be a part of that, what a blessing that will be for us.”