Shining Gems Shines Light on Special Athletes

Being a part of a team is something all children desire, whether it’s baseball, football, dance, or cheer. But for Prosper second graders Alyvia Acevedo and Dominic Henriquez, even though they’ve always wanted to participate, there hasn’t always been a place for them.

Until now.

A local cheer gym, Prosper Athletics, has created a special athlete cheer team called the Shining Gems that will practice once a week starting in September and will attend 4 competitions.

The Shining Gems program, directed by Prosper Athletics head coach Jimmy Flood, will be customized for each athlete depending on physical and/or developmental limitations.

“We want our special athletes to have a place where they can come and just be a part of something, where they can forget about the doctors and treatments and things for a while,” said Flood.

Alyvia’s mother, Cristen, said she is looking forward to the opportunity for her daughter to cheer, something she has wanted to do for many years.

“She loves the bows, the uniforms and just all of it,” said Cristen. “She’s ready to be one of the cheerleaders.”

Alyvia suffers the effects of a traumatic brain injury caused by bacterial meningitis at just 3 weeks of age. She wasn’t supposed to ever be able to talk or walk, but she has surpassed expectations. She does have some balance and cognitive developmental delays but none of that will stop her from being a Shining Gem. Cristin also hopes the activity and motion will help Alyvia with some of her flexibility and balance issues.

“Her favorite color is green, so I think she’s hoping for a little green in the uniform or bows for sure,” said Cristen.

Dominic’s mother, Jeanette Espinola, is wanting the same for her son. Dominic, age 7, was diagnosed at 22-months old with a rare genetic disorder called Hunters Syndrome, or Mucopolysaccharidosis Type II (MPS II), for which there is no cure.

Hunters Syndrome affects Dominic’s joints, breathing, heart and brain. In 2015, Dominic had a complicated surgery to implant a medication port on his abdomen that has a catheter inserted into his spine as part of a clinical trial in Chicago. One week out of every month, Dominic and Jeanette travel to Chicago for the treatment.

Jeanette, like Cristen, is optimistic about the positive impact Shining Gems will have regarding Dominic’s joints and mobility.

Despite his condition, Dominic is happy and can usually be seen dancing around wherever he’s going.

“He absolutely loves performing and dancing,” said Jeanette. “I know he’s ready to get out there with the Shining Gems and get moving.”

Cara Sorenson, owner of Prosper Athletics, says she is looking forward to getting it started and feels she has a great staff in place to make it an incredible addition to their program.

“Jimmy is really great with the kids. He’s worked with Special Olympics as well as similar programs in Florida before he joined us almost two years ago. The kids are already responding to him very well, and he’s loving it,” said Sorenson.

If you would like information about the Shining Gems program, please contact Coach Jimmy Flood at jflood@prosper-athletics.com or call 972-347-3444.

Renee Marler | Renee@CedarbrookMedia.com

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