Cheerleader with Down syndrome breaks down barriers at Bradley

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BRADLEY COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — The word “limitations” isn’t even on Carly Smith’s radar. She’s Bradley Central’s first cheerleader with Down syndrome, and she’s breaking down barriers — one cheer at a time.

“I like spreading cheer and love,” Smith said.

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17-year-old Carly Smith’s love for cheerleading immediately stood out in Bradley Central’s cheer tryouts two summers ago.

“I saw her, and honestly I was super excited, because most kids they wouldn’t try out for something like that,” senior captain Autumn Deal said.

“Instantly, I just kind of felt in my heart, ‘Hey, I think this girl would be great on the squad,'” Coach Carrie Ivester said. “I was watching her at the tryout and she picked it up sometimes better than the other girls. It was very surprising to me so I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s give it a try.”



Smith wasn’t new to cheerleading. Thanks to Lake Forest Middle School teacher Jennifer Glass, Smith began her cheering career across town for the Bruins.

She didn’t miss a single beat when she joined the high school squad.

“Let me tell you, she knows all those cheers before any other girl and she can tell the girls what cheer she wants to do,” Ivester said.

“It makes me awesome and powerful,” Smith said. “I love being at Bradley. It’s my inner school. It’s my favorite school in the whole world.”

Smith shows that love to everyone she comes in contact with.

“I feel like a lot of cheer squads don’t have the opportunity to have someone like Carly on their team,” senior Brileigh Hicks said. “She’s always happy, smiling, always has an attitude.”

“I think when they see her on the sidelines, I think it just makes everyone smile, because she loves it, and she’s just having so much fun,” Deal said.

“It spreads happiness to all of us, and she always makes us feel like we can do anything,” freshman Keylee Varnell said.

That’s exactly what Smith intends to do.

“I want to be a kindergarten teacher… and make some money,” Deal said.

“She’s knows what she’s made of, and she’s never negative about herself and always confident in herself,” Varnell said.

“She’s independent, and she loves it, and so for me, it just helps because I’m not having to even say there is a difference because there’s not,” Ivester said.

“Having her on the squad just brings out the best in all of us,” Deal said.

You can see Carly at all Bradley Central home games, cheering on her favorite players.