As a general assignment reporter, you don't often get to choose the stories you cover. An
assignment editor hands you information detailing when, where, and what subject you
have to file a story on for the evening news and you're on your way.
More often then not, the story will have to do with a shooting, murder, robbery, or anything
else that has to do with crime and punishment. Unfortunately, in the world of broadcast news,
these kind of stories, no matter how demoralizing, depressing, and downright despicable, are
the ones that generate the most 'interest' among viewers.
However, every once in a while, you get to cover a story that is special, one that puts a
smile on your face and confirms the reason why you chose to get in a business that,
sadly, often let's a big dose of negativity get in the way.
I was handed that 'story' after a long and tough week where nearly every emotion was
tapped and I was completely drained. My assignment editor handed me a piece of paper
and directed me to cover a a cheerleading team in need of support (money) in order to
travel to Florida for a national cheering championship.
a beautiful one: Team Magic, a cheerleading team made up of special needs kids.
I traveled to Monroe, New York, a small town about 45 minutes north of the Tappen Zee
Bridge. Almost as soon as I walked into the gym where Team Magic was practicing, a huge
smile came over my face. I was practically engulfed by unmistakable love, joy, and
the overwhelming happiness radiating from the faces of the girls competing on the team.
They were the special needs kids of Team Magic who were about to practice their routines
they'd be performing at the national championships in December if they get the money
needed for travel expenses.
Team Magic was invited by the competition committee as the first team made up of
a special needs children to take part in the event which will be broadcast on ESPN.
The smiles on the faces of the kids could melt the coldest of souls and most jaded of
people. They were real, sincere, and so magical. After the girls performed their routines
with the help of their mentors, a group of junior high school cheerleaders who sacrificed
their time to help Team Magic with their routines. "Sacrificed" may not be the right word
because it was so apparent this was a privilege for them that they truly cherished.
When the routines were done and my photographer captured the determination and
resiliency of Team Magic, I anxiously waited to interview them. I became so engrossed
in the moment. It was so pure and so heartwarming.
Many of the girls were born with down syndrome. Yes, they looked a little bit different
and their struggles are those that many of us cannot even comprehend. It all seemed so
unfair that these beautiful children had suffered such a cruel fate, born into a harsh and
sometimes insensitive world with imperfections that unfairly tags them as "special needs"
people for the rest of their lives.
These kids were so sweet, so innocent, and in many ways, so very fragile. While I
interviewed them, some of the girls, paused, lost their train of thought, then looked
into the crowd for some of the answers. They didn't need to look very hard or far
because I was right at their side, whispering the answers in their ears. The look on their
faces was priceless and made an indelible mark on my heart.
Many of us, including myself, have a tendency to become unsettled when things do not
go our way. Complaining about a hardship becomes routine and walking down the "woe is
me" street can occupy more time than ever should be allowed. Imagine being in the shoes
of a special needs kids where things can be really, really difficult for not only the children,
but parents, as well.
I loved doing this story and that is captured perfectly in the selfie I took with Team
Magical. These kids were truly magical. So innocent, so happy, so excited to just being
given the opportunity to compete and be on television. Spending an hour with these kids
was like a cleansing, wiping all the dirt, grime, and negativity that often comes with covering
stories about death and destruction so often.
This was real. This was genuine. And stories like these are the reason I love television.
I was more than happy to make a contribution to their cause and I reached out to the
audience in New York to do the same. These girls deserve to go. They deserve their
moment in the sun and spotlight. Their team is truly magical.
Help Team Magic get to Florida. (https://www.gofundme.com/gq973fak)