IRVINE ( — A cheerleading team made of athletes with a range of disabilities is gearing up to compete alongside cheerleaders at the National Championships.

“Team Invincible” won last year’s competition and is hoping for back-to-back honors.

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The special athletes are paired with volunteer leadership coaches, who form strong bonds with their students.

“They’ve always been told they can’t do certain things; I love telling them they can, letting them learn they can do anything they set their mind to,” leadership coach Bailey Burdett said.

“They spend time together here at practice, but they also spend time outside: they’ve gone to Disneyland together, they do parties together, they go to dinner together, different activities on the weekend,” team founder Nicole Fusaro said.

Even though the coaches say the team isn’t about winning, many of the athletes feel a huge sense of accomplishment when they take home a trophy.

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“It makes me feel good; it makes me feel exercised a lot,” team member Sydney Taylor said.

Taylor’s father got teary-eyed talking about how much the team means to his daughter.

Team organizers say there is room for more special athletes.

Many of them are on scholarships.

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To help sponsor a cheerleader, call (949) 582-2854 or visit and click the Irvine team’s website.