Kennedy Hansen, a 16-year-old sophomore from Plain City, Utah, is known as, The Angel of Fremont High. This past summer, the teenager was diagnosed with a rare terminal genetic disorder, juvenile Batten disease, which has taken her sight and compromised her mind. Kennedy’s father, Jason Hansen, told the Standard-Examiner, “She’s losing her mobility, her ability to walk, her ability to talk, her ability to reason. She’s at about a pre-school level and she has a little less than a year to live.” However, the condition did not stop Kennedy from reaching her lifelong goal of becoming a cheerleader.
It all started during a game when Kennedy had her father walk her down to the track to hear the cheerleaders. It was then that Mr. Hansen told the squad that his daughter had always dreamed of being a cheerleader. They went home and Jason, without relaying his thoughts to anyone, wrote in his journal that he wished Kennedy could be part of the squad but he knew she never would be. Later, to his surprise the cheer coach and squad asked Kennedy to join the team. They had learned more about Kennedy’s dream and her condition, and knew they wanted her on the squad.
“For me as a dad, it was a prayer answered,” said Jason. “I would have been completely content with one game, but the experience was with Jill Schofield, who’s the coach, who does not build cheerleaders, she builds young women.”
On the squad, Kennedy lifts the spirits of not only the crowds, but also inspires all of her fellow cheerleaders. “She doesn’t see her challenges as challenges,” coach Schofield told KUTV Fox 13.
“There’s something magical that happens when she gets with the girls.” Kennedy’s mother, Heather Hansen agrees and said that despite her daughter’s personality changing as her disease progresses, it seems to return when she’s with the squad. “She's energetic and vibrant and just comes alive. She comes alive again. She's having so much fun," Heather told the Deseret News.
Kennedy has inspired all of her teammates. “She makes the best out of everything. So it just makes me want to be a better person and I want to be like her,” said Kierstie Arteaga, a fellow sophomore cheerleader. Emily Woodyatt shared, “She just kind of humbled me because I learned not to take advantage of, what, the skills that I can do.” “We love Kennedy and I wouldn’t do anything, trade anything for this experience. She’s made such an effect on our team,”said senior Jordyn Chandler.
“Kennedy has a remarkable spirit but a dying body and it’s been fun to see these cheerleaders grow and recognize that,” said Jason.
Recently, Fremont High’s basketball team played its last home game and Kennedy’s parents don’t think that she’ll make it to another one. But they’re grateful for the time that she’s had as a Fremont High cheerleader. Jason expressed, “Seeing her with those cheerleaders makes you feel like she’s just one of the girls.” Heather added, “She gets to finally experience everything that a normal teenager would.”