PLAIN CITY -- The Fremont High School basketball team has only won three games this season, but for the squad that cheers them on every night it’s been a winning season because of one person on the sidelines.
Kennedy Hansen had always dreamed of being a cheerleader at the school, but for the last several years a terminal illness, known as Juvenile Batten disease, has slowly robbed her of both sight and mind.
But in September, the squad decided to make her an official member. Since then, the 16-year-old has taught her teammates more about life than they thought they could ever learn on the court.
“There’s something magical that happens when she gets with the girls,” said Jill Schofield, head coach of the Fremont Cheerleaders.
Before every game, Hansen’s teammates will pick her up to help her get ready for the night and then accompany her to the game. While she’s not the captain or necessarily the most talented, after finishing hair and makeup, Hansen turns into a leader.
“Mind you, this is a girl who is blind, who is terminally ill, so there is no survival for her,” Schofield said, “But she doesn't see her challenges as challenges.”
Instead, Hansen chooses to overcome, leading the squad in warm-up counts and cheers before Tuesday night’s last home game for the Fremont Silverwolves.
"When she walks out everyone just screams. It's so crazy. I just love her and I cannot imagine this team being the same without her,” said teammate, Jordyn Chandler.
Because it’s the last game at the high school, it will likely be the last one Hansen attends. While her parents are unsure of when the disease will take its final toll, they feel fortunate to have seen their daughter get to be a teenager for once.
“Seeing her with those cheerleaders makes you feel like she's just one of the girls. She gets to finally experience everything that a normal teenager would,” said Heather and Jason Hansen.
On Tuesday night, before a crowded gym at FHS, it felt like the entire room was rooting for one 16-year-old girl, whose spirit is unwavering.
“She’s amazing. She’s inspiring,” Chandler said.