Blizzards heats up the mat with smiles

There’s nothing cold about this team.

Blizzards, the team, is comprised of special needs United All Stars students who leave behind them warm memories and big smiles instead.

Roni Engeldinger, head coach of the team for the second year, was busy Friday evening before the annual open house at Iowa Central Community College getting the 18 team members lined up for photographs.

Smiling was no problem.

“This gives the students confidence,” Engeldinger said. “They are able to be like their peers.”

She said it helps the students with coordination and team work.

Darci Anderson, 7, of Dakota City, is one of the group’s youngest members. Her mother, Angie Anderson, said her daughter was enjoying the experience and making lots of new friends with dancers from other communities.

“I love seeing all the kids together,” Angie Anderson said. “They have a really strong bond.”

The dancers began rehearsing for their show in March, Engeldinger said. Each is provided their uniforms and tuition free of charge. The coaches are volunteers from other classes.

Jordan Schleisman is one of them. She worked with Darci Anderson and guides her during Blizzards performances on the mat.

“I love being with the Blizzards,” she said. “Their spirits are so high.”

She cherishes the time with the team.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world,” she said.

Michelle Olson got a big kiss from her daughter Kristina Olson, 13, before the start of the show. She said it was her daughter’s first year with the group.

“She loves the cheerleading and being part of a team,” she said.

The anticipation did build up before the big day.

“She’s looking forward to it,” she said.

During Friday’s performance, Molly Hoover, 25, did a tumble. When she stood back up, she was grinning from ear to ear.

“It’s fun,” she said.

She’s made many new friends being part of the team, she said, adding that before the show she wasn’t too nervous.

“I’ll do fine,” she said. “Friends help.”