Two, Four, Six, Eight: Inclusive Cheerleader Group Is Really Great!

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March 28, 2013; Source: ESPNW

There are plenty of nonprofits that latch onto a new kitschy idea and get outsized and unwarranted attention, but The Sparkle Effect is different. Founder Sarah Cronk’s organization develops high school and college cheerleading teams that include both able-bodied and disabled students. Cronk first did that for her own high school cheer team in Bettendorf, Iowa by making it inclusive of students with disabilities. Now, her nonprofit has almost 100 inclusive cheer teams around the nation.

Several aspects of the Sparkle Effect are worth noting. For one thing, the disabled participants are full members of the cheer teams, not honorary members. That degree of inclusiveness is striking. Also, the Sparkle Effect seems to operate relatively cheaply. Cronk is now going to college in Washington State, but she gets help from a couple of her friends with the nonprofit’s management and operations. Their willingness to fly to emerging Sparkle squads around the nation and to offer free help would suggest some costs are involved, however, on GuideStar, the Sparkle Effect only has one Form 990 posted—from 2009 with total income of less than $1,000.

This may be a true example of a voluntary charity, virtually eschewing outside support. Nonetheless, we will be eager to figure out how the Sparkle Effect can provide free training and technical assistance for its member cheerleading teams while helping to organize new squads without a little cash in hand. Perhaps the $100,000 they recently received as a “Do Something” award winner may be a tool in their financial picture. –Rick Cohen

  • Julie

    Absolutely wonderful!

  • Linda Mullen

    As the Director of Outreach for The Sparkle Effect, Inc., let me thank you for your positive shout-out! Also, I would be happy to answer any questions that you have about how our organization is staffed and funded and about the free uniforms and free services that we offer to our inclusive teams nationwide. Just drop me an e-mail with your phone number and we can chat all about it!

  • rick cohen

    Linda: rather than talking to me, you should talk to our readership. Feel free to add a comment that explains how the Sparkle Effect operates. Thanks.

  • Linda Mullen

    Great! We are funded through corporate grants/donations and unsolicited private donations. And, yes, the Do Something Awards provided an enormous financial boost that has enabled us to provide uniforms and free training from coast to coast! In addition, this past year, L’Oreal Paris named our president, Sarah Cronk, a L’Oreal Woman of Worth, and donated $10,000 to The Sparkle Effect.

    Our primary staff (including Sarah) works on a strictly volunteer basis for no salary and always has. We have a national Board of Directors that likewise works for free. Finally, we have a stellar corporate partner in Varsity, Inc., the largest and most esteemed cheer and dance uniform company in the world. Varsity matches our uniform grant funding dollar for dollar, enabling us to double our impact. We have a staff of college-aged trainers who travel the country to provide free on-site training to our inclusive teams.

    We often find ourselves trying to convince teams that we really do offer uniforms and training for free. There are no hidden costs. We aren’t selling anything — well, except the idea that inclusion is good, and right, and should be the norm. 🙂