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Kids with disabilities dancing and cheering without limits

"I would never show my true self at school, but here I feel that I can show my true self," said Melissa.

LEBANON, Ill. — If you don't jump, you can't fly.

And some kids from Lebanon, Illinois, are soaring while kicking down barriers.

Once a week, they practice for the Without Limits Dance Company which gives kids with disabilities the chance to dance and cheer.

"These kids deserve the chance to be treated just like anybody else," said coach Kati Hasall.

Hasall started the program with her husband back in 2017 with just a few kids.

"I'm a special [education] teacher and I had had a couple of parents that said that their kiddos weren't doing great in typical dance classes," Hasall told 5 On Your Side.

Now, with the help of volunteers, she's helping more than three dozen students sparkle.

Credit: KSDK

"We have kids that have ADHD to cerebral palsy to Down syndrome to autism," she explained.

Melissa Cruz, a 17-year-old on the team, said when you have a disability like autism you can feel lonely even when you're not alone.

"I would never show my true self at school, but here I feel that I can show my true self," said Melissa.

Credit: KSDK

And more than any tumbles or flips, Melissa said it's the friendships that have changed her life. Fellow student Kennedy Elbe agreed.

"I'm friends with Melissa, Alyssa, Kaylee, and all of them," she said with a smile.

"She now has a place that she feels safe," added Lisa Elbe, Kennedy's mom. "She feels comfortable. She could be herself."

Lisa is the company's cheer coach. And next year, they've been invited to be one of just five U.S. teams to cheer at the Special Olympics World Games.

Melissa Cruz can't wait to cheer in front of all those people and said she never gets nervous.

"I get nervous backstage," she said, "but then, once I hit that stage, I go for it!"

Credit: KSDK

Every star shines a little differently.

And for these kids, Kati Hasall was the perfect dance partner.

"She's kind. She's sweet. She loves me," said Kennedy with another smile.

Without Limits Dance Company, helping kids with abilities to never lose their good cheer.

Do you know someone Making A Difference? Let Mike know by filling out the form below, or emailing Mike at mbush@ksdk.com

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