One-legged cheerleader proves 'anything is possible'

PHOTO: One-legged cheerleader proves 'anything is possible'

US - When Ms Jean Nail, director of spirit squads for the University of Arkansas, was looking through applications from girls for the cheerleading squad, she could not help but notice the full length photo of Miss Patience Beard.

Her left leg stood out because it was a zebra-striped prosthetic leg.

Ms Nail said she was surprised and excited. She immediately viewed Miss Beard's audition DVD.

The competition was tough because only five freshmen would make it to the 24-member squad, MSNBC's Today reported.

But Ms Nail knew the 18-year-old had what it took to compete in live try-outs and would not grant her any special treatment.

Said Ms Nail: "She's a member of the squad. We expect the same from her that we expect of everyone else. No more, no less."

Miss Beard didn't need any extra help. She had cheered competitively in her hometown in Texas since school and had always dreamed of becoming a cheerleader.

Considering that her left leg had to be amputated before her first birthday, Miss Beard has proved to be an amazing role model and inspiration to her home town in Texarkana.

She was born with a severe case of proximal femoral focal deficiency, a non-hereditary disease of the hip and femur bone that leaves a leg shorter than the other.

Miss Beard said: "It's always a challenge, always pushing yourself. Everyone goes through obstacles. The people who feel good about themselves are the ones who go for their dreams."

Mrs Sheila Harrell, a former college level cheerleader who watches the University of Arkansas games said Miss Beard makes it "look effortless".

A mother, Mrs Amber Lanning, said she did not notice Miss Beard's prosthetics initially but was impressed by her and the role-model influence on children.

Said Mrs Lanning: "They are able to witness for themselves that anything is possible." Nominated for courage award

Recently nominated for a courage award by the Football Writers Association of America, Miss Beard credits her success to her parents, for treating her like any other child.

They encouraged her to ride a bike, play with other children and even try gymnastics, Daily Mail reported.

"They've always pushed me to do the best I can do and never let me give excuses," she was quoted as saying.

She said her parents refused to see her as physically challenged. They once sent Miss Beard to kindergarten "show and tell" with her older brother so everyone could see her leg, and see that she was just like them in every other way.

Miss Beard now juggles cheerleading practice and games, with classes for her communications degree.

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