Destiny Wells is taking her cheerleading outside the United States.
Wells, 19, was invited to and will compete at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games March 14-21 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The weeklong event features competition in 24 sports including basketball, cycling, sailing and football. Thousands of athletes compete in the events with upward of 500,000 spectators in attendance.
Opening ceremonies start are March 14 with competition through until the 21 which concludes with a closing ceremony.
Wells is the only athlete from her local team making the trek and will join six other cheerleaders along with several others who will participate in the sideline cheer program. Those cheerleaders will cheer for athletes as they compete throughout the games. Her mother, Crystal Wells, will also be one of the cheer coaches at the Games.
Athletes and their families have to pay their own way to get to the competition some 8,069 miles away from home. Because of that, the Wells are the only family from Midlothian going, Crystal Wells said.
Regularly, Wells cheers in an inclusive team Liberty Cheer which her mother founded about 10 years ago.
Crystal said when Destiny Wells was younger, she wanted to cheer, but they couldn’t find an inclusive team. So, they created a squad where people with disabilities can cheer alongside their peers.
“She always wanted to cheer,” Crystal added.
Destiny, who has Down syndrome, can now cheer alongside her younger sister, Angelina Wells, 13.
Angelina said it is fun cheering alongside her sister and noted Destiny is very outgoing.
“She has no fear,” she said about her older sister. “She likes the stage.”
Angelina gets to see cheering from a different perspective than most because she watches those with disabilities shine alongside her, she said. She is excited about her sister competing on the international stage and looks forward to watching from the sidelines as a volunteer.
Crystal said it’s great seeing a spectrum of kids interacting with each other and learning from one another.
The Liberty Cheer team allows people with disabilities to succeed in something they love to do with their peers, and it lets their peers learn to think inclusively for the rest of their lives, Crystal said.
Since starting the team, Crystal has seen kids grow up and go to become therapists and special education teachers.
Crystal noted that cheering wasn’t always a part of the Special Olympics. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that it was even recognized as a sport in Texas.
“It’s really cool because it is becoming a national sport,” she added.
It didn’t take long for the family to decide to make the trip across the world.
“[Destiny] is excited,” Crystal said. “She loves to travel.”
Destiny, Crystal and Angelina leave for the United Arab Emirates March 12.
“Out of the five kids I have, Destiny’s had the most exciting life,” Crystal added.
Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty