Breaking News
More () »

The Lemon Sharks don't let disabilities stand in the way of smiles

A CAK student started the Lemon Sharks as a school service project
Heather Grubbs started the Lemon Sharks cheer team.

The cheerleaders who were practicing at Premiere Athletics one afternoon call themselves the Lemon Sharks.

Candace is one of the youngest and the smallest so she is a flier.

Candace's Mother Shemeka Jackson said, "So I told my sister because I've never cheered before so I told her oh they said she can be a flier and she said, Meka, you know that means she's going to be at the top of the pyramid."

And that's where she is with the help of teenage spotters.

"Can you smile?" Heather Grubbs asks the cheerleaders.

They sure can. Smiles everywhere!

It's exactly what Christian Academy of Knoxville senior Heather Grubbs had in mind when she founded the Lemon Sharks for a school service project. Girls with special needs enjoy a special time cheering.

"I love all these girls so much. They are so close to my heart. I love coming here and being with them and having fun," Heather Grubbs said.

Laura Budai is a Lemon Shark "I just love Heather. She's like my mother. She's like my aunt," she said.

Shemeka Jackson said, "Heather is the bomb. I love Heather."

They cheer, they laugh, they dance. The Lemon Sharks is not about disabilities but abilities.

"They've been told so much what they can't do with their special needs and everything but their own confidence, like we can do it and that's what they're doing. They are so proud," she said.

Heather said, "If we treat them like normal kids they act like it. They are very obedient. Most of them listen. As you saw we have a few runners but they are so fun."

A typical session includes stretches and routines and stunts and tumbling and free time to dance.

Heather and her teenage friends lead the sessions and bond with the girls.

"My favorite part is when they walk in every day and give me a huge smile and hug and I just love to love on them that's my favorite. And seeing them on stage too. Their faces when they get up on stage are priceless," she said.

They go up on stage for a reason. The Lemon Sharks is a competitive cheer leading team.

"They competed last year in Sevierville and this year they'll be competing in Knoxville as well as Sevierville and they'll go up on stage in front of the big lights and thousands of people watching them and they'll perform their routine," she said.

Shemeka Jackson remembered, "They had their first competition and I thought they would freak out because of the size of the stage. Not them. They went out there and hit their marks I mean they were so proud and confident."

Two of the helpers plan to carry on the Lemon Sharks as their service projects at CAK.

"I'm so glad it doesn't have to end when I leave," Heather said.