“Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life.”
This statement fiercely applies to an amazing group of cheerleaders and teen buddies from the Manchester Eagles Organization. From a team that started with only 1 Challenger athlete who ended up being placed on another team due to not being enough to make a team, the Challengers team has grown to include 7 cheerleaders (disabilities that include Canavan Disease, Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis and on), and 7 awesome teenagers that buddy up with the Challengers. Smiles and laughter, hugs and giggles, this team has a heart like nothing experienced before.
The Manchester Eagles Challengers team is the first ever New Hampshire Pop Warner challengers program, and the first challengers team to represent New Hampshire Pop Warner at the National Pop Warner competition in Disney World this December! The mission of the Challengers program is to bring the Pop Warner experience to those special needs individuals aged 5-18. The overall goals are to enable young people to benefit from participation in inclusive team sports within a structured and safe environment. By establishing a Challengers division, the Manchester Eagles are providing opportunities for ALL children to be on the sidelines cheer on our football teams and performing at competitions in front of a variety of audiences.
Opportunity of a lifetime
Currently in our third season and overcoming many obstacles throughout the season on and off the mat, the Challengers were invited to represent New Hampshire Pop Warner in Orlando, Florida at the ESPN Wide World of Sports on the grounds of Disney World. This is an incredible opportunity for the Manchester Eagles to showcase their gifted talents to a national audience.
With this opportunity also comes incredible costs. Being a special needs team, they are unable to travel without the aid of their parents and/or caregivers. The team of parents, adults, and abled athletes are consistently “hitting the pavement” fundraising and asking for sponsorships from area business and good samaritian to raise the funds in less than a month’s time, while taking into account the fragile health needs of each athlete. It costs approximately $1500 per person to perform at Nationals. This is a team of innocence, love and commitment that truly makes this team unique and special in their own right.