McKeil Patterson has made a world of difference for the Beaufort, South Carolina High School cheerleading squad – and they have made a world of difference for her. At 16, Patterson has struggled with cerebral palsy her whole life and with many other issues.
While on the team, Patterson was getting frustrated with her teammates’ lack of focus. She brought them together and told them more about herself. As she said, “I was in bad foster homes, and I was abused for a very long time, three years. I had two broken hips, sores all over my body, I only weighed 88 pounds, and I was just hanging on for dear life.”
She continued, “I didn’t give up. When I go to therapy I give 100 percent. It might be hard, but I give 100 percent every time. It might hurt, but I give 100 percent. Today, you could never tell I was 88 pounds.”
Her speech put things into perspective and got the girls back on track.
When Patterson’s physical therapist first came to a football game, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. As Ferguson said, “We didn’t really know what McKeil was capable of until that game.” As the therapist continued, “Sometimes she can only get her arms to her face. But when there’s pom poms involved, it’s a whole different story.”
Patterson explained her love for the game when she said, “They make me feel proud, like I’m not just a person in a wheelchair. They see me in a different way. They see me as this girl who can do anything.”
Soon, Patterson will be making more changes, moving to Charleston, South Carolina. As she explained, “There has been a family member who has stepped up to the plate and who has wanted to adopt me. I had to make a choice. … It was very tough but I’ve been gone from my family for over nine years. I think it’s time for us to be united.”
She is said to leave her cheering and her foster mom behind. But as she said about cheerleading, “It has inspired me to achieve other dreams, like one day becoming a fashion designer. Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that I can’t be a fashion designer. I can be.”
As junior Tori Settlemire said about Patterson, “She’s changed us 10 times more than we ever expected her to. She makes us feel like in everything we do, we need to give it 100 percent.”