Huffpost Impact

Do Something Grants $100,000 To Sparkle Effect Founder

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SARAH CRONK
AP

It came down to helping military widows, bringing healthful food to the poor, empowering immigrants, supporting cheerleaders with disabilities and salvaging leftovers. The Do Something judges ultimately decided to give $100,000 to a nonprofit that trains disabled teens to cheer on the field.

Do Something, an organization that aims to inspire young people to volunteer, brought five nonprofit founders to its VH1 awards show on Thursday that also honored big-name celebrity do-gooders. The judges named the Sparkle Effect, an inclusive cheerleading squad and brainchild of 18-year-old Sarah Cronk, the winner of the sizeable grant.

"It's going to take us to a new level," Cronk told the organization after she won the grand prize. "It's going to allow us to provide more services to our squad."

After watching how joining the swim team boosted her older brother's self-esteem, Cronk realized how critical it is to open up high school sports to students with disabilities, she wrote in her Huffington Post blog. So, in 2008, Cronk urged her cheerleading squad, the Spartan Sparkles, to include teens with disabilities, from autism to Down syndrome. Once the program took off at Springfield High School in Ohio, Cronk decided to take the initiative around the country.

"Sparkle Effect squads are not about perfection; they are about connection," Cronk wrote in her blog. "In many towns across America, Friday night football and basketball games are the main event. Sparkle Effect teams nationwide are throwing a big bright spotlight on the importance of inclusion."

To date, her organization has launched 33 inclusive squads across the U.S.

As for her plans on how to use the grant money, Cronk just has her eye on continuing to expand the program.

"[It will be] easier for squads to get started. It's going to allow us to hire more trainers across the country," Cronk told Do Something organizers. "It will allow us to bring cheerleaders together to share their experiences."

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