Volunteer helps coach cheer team of special needs students at Arvada West High School

WIldcat Sparkles team members helped by volunteer

ARVADA - One of the goals of our 7Everyday Hero program is to focus on the positive.

We recently traveled to Arvada to meet an outstanding volunteer who is helping change the culture of high school life. 

Candy Erickson is a volunteer for perhaps the hottest team at Arvada West High School, the Wildcat Sparkles.

"As soon as the music starts they light up. I think we all do a little bit.  Your heart goes, ohhh," said Erickson.

The Sparkles are a cheer-spirit squad for teens with special needs.

"If they can be happy and keep going, why can't I? It does make you a stronger person. I think it makes you more grateful," said Erickson.

Erickson has spent 17-years as a Para Educator. She currently assists Arvada West senior Keslie Levad.

Levad lives with Cerebral Palsy, but is known for her outgoing personality, her courage and her love of cheerleading.

"Keslie and I started six years ago when she was in seventh grade.  And she is just one of those kids who has always believed that if she wants to do it she can figure out a way to do it," said Erickson.

Erickson's outlook made her a perfect choice to lead the Sparkles.

The team's success and popularity have had a positive impact on the members of the squad and the school as a whole.

"Not just acceptance of individuality but celebration and how you can embrace the different micro-cultures we have in school," said Arvada West Principal Dr. Robert Bishop, Ed.D.

"I do feel I get more acceptance because before people wouldn't even come up to me and say ‘Hi’ or anything and now they are saying: 'Hi, how are you?' and they're checking on me.  And I'm really happy that has happened," said Sparkles member Annabelle Clevenger.

Members of the Wildcat Sparkles improve their communication, social and physical skills, but most of all they open minds and hearts.

"I get to see them succeed.  I get to see Keslie smile and be, well, get to be a kid," said Erickson. 

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