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LIGHTNING PHOTOS: Special Needs hoops and cheers

Jaden Bass, Heidi, Sonya Edwards, Keith Edwards and Briana Chapman Jaden Bass, Heidi, Sonya Edwards, Keith Edwards and Briana Chapman

Paige Allen lines up her cheerleading squad and shouts out the cheer.


"We've got more power to the hour, more bounce to the ounce. We are the cheerleaders and we're here to rock the house!"
The squad of five girls plus their helpers repeats the cheer as loud as they can, if they can. The volume of their cheering is less important than the spirit of the effort. The cheerleaders wear the biggest smiles.
Allen, a graduate of Hendersonville Christian School who takes classes at AB Tech and Fruitland Bible Institute, is the volunteer coach of Henderson County's Special Needs and Special Olympics cheerleading squad. Her squad is now part of the Special needs sports program founded by Donnie Jones.
A longtime middle school baseball coach, Jones started Special Needs baseball in 2011, and has seen it grow to more than 125 players in three years. Jones has always loved baseball, even though he didn't have a chance to play on a varsity squad himself. Edneyville High School, where he graduated in 1972, didn't have a baseball team.
"I've just always loved baseball," he said. "I started off just coaching Little League when (son) Rob was 4. I coached Little League two seasons — spring and fall — and then I coached middle school."
He decided one day that what the community needed was a league for special needs children and adults.
Special Needs Baseball grew to 104 players last year and Jones thinks he'll have 150 players when the spring season opens at Jackson Park on April 26. In the dead of winter, though, he got the idea of starting Special Needs basketball and cheerleading. He organized the league, pulled in sponsors and secured a place to play — the Hendersonville Elementary School gym.
The league has two wheelchair teams, "two teams of little kids" and four teams of older boys and girls. The league has 54 signed up for hoops and 27 on cheerleading squads — "pretty good for putting it together in three weeks," Jones said.
Age, size and handicap don't matter.
"It's just like baseball," he said. "We don't have any limits on anything."