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WESTMONT, Ill. (CBS) — Friday night’s Westmont High School halftime show will be anything but normal.
A big out-of-town crowd is expected, and 55 cheerleaders will both cheer and raise money to provide iPads equipped with special apps to help special-needs children nationwide learn.
The special iPad given in late July to Ruby Benefield, 5, has helped her learn math, science, language and even sign language despite spina bifida.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
“I’m playing,” she says. But her parents are amazed at how the iPad has broken down historic barriers to learning for such children.
A weekend extravaganza begins with the football game. A Sunday night raffle, on the team’s Facebook page, has two iPads as grand prizes. The goal is to raise enough money to provide a specially-equipped iPad for one special needs child in each of the 50 states.
Ruby’s mother, Lara, has worked closely with the Westmont Cheer Team and hopes others copy what they’re doing.
For the Benefield family, it’s a family affair. Older sister Emma is on the Cheer Team and is the one who brought the idea to coach Becky Freeman.
The Cheer Team members will be working with Westmont’s junior cheerleaders, and one of them is 11-year-old Sophie Benefield. And Ruby will be one of the three special needs children who will participate alongside the others in the 55-person cheerleading contingent.
“She won’t let that wheelchair stop her,” her mother said, as Ruby practiced the hand moves along with the rest of the cheerleaders.
The founder of the group, which is known online by its initials “A4CWSN” or simply “A4,” Gary James, is flying in from Connecticut for the game. Others who support the group are coming in from Florida, Virginia and Michigan. It’s the first fundraiser of any kind for the nine-month-old group, and Lara Benefield said she hopes this serves as a template for what other groups can do to help A4.