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Cheering Their Way to the City of Dreams

Special Olympics athletes set their sights on the summer games in Los Angeles

The eight Calvert SuperStarz competing in the summer Special Olympics games: Hanna Reams, Sarah Watterson (unified partner), Claire Blumberg, Brandan Ehrmantraut, Alexea Wentz, Carmen ­Houston-Ludlam, Amy Walker and Nicole Basom (unified partner).

Brandan Ehrmantraut of Prince Fredrick loves being part of Special Olympics. “It shows we aren’t different even with our disabilities,” the 20-year-old says. “We can compete like everyone else.”
    Ehrmantraut and seven unified cheerleading teammates are journeying to Los Angeles later this summer to support and energize special athletes from around the world in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. They will be cheering on five of their Maryland peers at the games.
    As a unified cheerleading team, Calvert’s SuperStarz integrates special athletes with unified partners. Of the eight, two cheer as unified players.
    Calvert’s SuperStarz, one of the few unified cheer programs in Maryland, is one of only 19 across the country sending athletes to cheer in Los Angeles.
    “Unified” has special meaning for Ehrmantraut because, he says, “it makes me as a special athlete feel like everyone else.”
    He is not alone in his appreciation of the unified partnership.

Sarah Watterson and Nicole Basom lift Carmen Houston-Ludlam while Hanna Reams spots from behind. All four will be going to L.A.

    Nicole Basom of Owings was recruited as a unified partner with a high school dance teammate who has a sister on the special needs team.
    “Coming here is my favorite thing to do,” says Basom, who has forged friendships on the team. “It’s so much more rewarding to come here and give back. And they give back to you too; it’s a give and take thing. They make me just as happy as them being here.”
    The 2015 Special Olympics Summer World Games is the first to include unified cheerleaders. Started in 1968, the summer games were held every other year until 1977 when the winter games were introduced. Now each is held every four years. These are the first summer games in the United States since 1999.
    The summer games being held in Los Angeles provide opportunity to expand unified cheerleading since it became a program recognized by the Special Olympics. Gayle Watterson, Calvert SuperStarz’s coach, started Calvert’s unified cheer program seven years ago when Special Olympics Maryland first included cheer competitions in the summer games.