CLARKSTON, Mich. (WJBK) - When a 16-year-old girl was born with Down syndrome in Clarkston, her parents worried about how she would be treated or be included.
Kenzie Zacharias is now a high school varsity cheerleader and shows us nothing is impossible. As a Clarkston cheerleader, the sophomore cheers the varsity football team on every Friday. But there are plenty of people rooting for Kenzie, too.
"The day she was born, we didn't know she had Down syndrome," said Kelly Zacharias, her mother. "I said to Joe, I kind of went into mourning for 24 hours only. And I was so scared of how people were going to accept her. This is just the epitome of every mother's dream to have this happen for her and I hope it happens to other special needs children because she is capable."
Last year, Kenzie became fascinated with the cheerleading squad when she helped her father, who was a water manager for the football team. She would watch and then mimic their moves. One day, one of the cheerleaders took her under her wing and Kenzie has been cheering ever since.
"She will come to practice and she just comes in and screams, 'Hi!' to everyone," said Becca Winkler, who helped Kenzie get her start. "She's just hugging everyone. Sometimes she goes to away games she's hugging other people she doesn't know. She just brightens everyone's day."
"They all love her, they get so excited to see her stunt and cheer," said Sydnee Hubert-McLennan. "It's really special because they are not pushing her away, they are embracing her."
A special part of Kenzie's wardrobe is her varsity jacket she wears proudly, especially when she gets to hang out with her fellow cheerleaders. She attempts to do everything the other girls do, minus some of the stunts.
"I am really proud how far she has come," said Maddie, her younger sister. "(She practices) all the time, she is in her room cheering, it is super happy to see her."
It's an experience her parents never imagined would be possible for their 16-year-old, who was recently named Athlete of the Week. They credit the close-knit Clarkston community for their love and acceptance. And for that - they will always be grateful and forever bleed blue and gold.
"She cheers for everybody and everybody cheers for her - the community, the girls, Coach Ashley," said Joe Zacharias, her father. "Everybody's accepted her and rooted her. Parents come up to us (and say) we love watching your daughter. It's really neat, we are really proud."
"She loves every minute of it, she loves the girls she loves the crowd she loves the community," said Kelly. "This is an awesome opportunity."