Callie Hancock and Alyssa Gardner cheering for the Wolfpack Cheer Team in 2012.

FishHawk Wolfpack Cheer is starting a challenger team for athletes with special needs that want to take part in their cheer program.

Callie Hancock, a junior student at Newsome High School and former member of Wolfpack Cheer, asked her mom to contact Fishhawk Wolfpack to ask if they could start the team in order to create an inclusive and fun opportunity for her peers with special needs. The Pop Warner Challenger division brings the Pop Warner experience to participants with special needs by offering a structured cheer and dance program to athletes ages 5-18. Athletes learn cheer skills and a routine that they will perform at competitions where the other Wolfpack cheer teams will be competing.

“Junior Alyssa Gardner and I were both Wolfpack cheerleaders when we were younger. … We wanted to give kids of different abilities an opportunity to make memories like us,” explained Callie.

The team will offer a way for athletes with special needs to stay active and engaged with their friends while being supported by their coaches and teammates. Callie was inspired by her younger sister, Leyton, who has cerebral palsy, to be part of a team to reach FishHawk-area kids with special needs.

“She is my biggest inspiration and I have seen everything she has been through. As she has gotten older, it has been harder and harder for her to participate in younger kid activities. This program allows her and other special needs kids in our community to participate in ways that they normally cannot,” said Callie.

The co-ed team will start on Wednesday, August 2, with practices on Wednesday nights. Callie is hoping to have around 10 athletes on the cheer squad in their inaugural season. Students between 5-18 years old can register online for $150, which includes a practice set, uniform and bow. Along with multiple qualified and experienced adult coaches, Callie and Gardner will be junior coaches on the team, using their experience with Wolfpack Cheer to guide their new cheerleaders.

“I was not surprised at all. Callie is the hardest working, motivated and driven teenager I know. She has always been the absolute best big sister to Leyton,” said Callie’s mother, Malinda Hancock. “… Callie and Alyssa will be the most amazing coaches.”

The Wolfpack Cheer Team are six-time national champions in their 17th year in the FishHawk-area community. The recreational cheer program is located off Fishhawk Boulevard in Lithia.

For more information on Wolfpack’s cheer program or to register for the challenger team or other 2023 teams, visit their Facebook page, go to or contact

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Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher is a writer for the Osprey Observer. She started as an intern in the summer of 2020 and has continued to write for the Osprey Observer since completing her internship. Lily is majoring in mass communications at the University of South Florida and is a staff writer for the university’s paper, The Oracle. She enjoys writing about local nonprofit organizations and community role models who have made an impact on her hometown.