Marissa Wade always wanted to be a cheerleader.
Abby Strohmetz wanted to give someone the opportunity to try to be a cheerleader.
As it turned out, both girls got what they wished for.
Marissa, a seventh-grader at Perry Middle School, was decked out Thursday in new pink shoes for her first tumbling lesson at Tumblecheer Heroes in Perry. Her sponsor, 12-year-old Abby, who attends Warner Robins Middle School, was right there with her.
“She just wanted to share what she loves with someone else,” Katie Satterfield, owner of Tumblecheer Heroes, said of Abby, one of her students.
Satterfield worked with Marissa on her basic skills and strength.
Using gym mats and a rectangular trampoline, Satterfield had Marissa attempt cartwheels, forward rolls and a bridge, which is like a backward plank. By the end of the hourlong lesson, Marissa had already started improving.
“My favorite were the cartwheels,” she said.
Abby used her own money to fund two months of gym classes for Marissa. Another donor heard about Abby’s gift and paid for another month.
“We’re hoping other people will pay it forward,” Satterfield said.
Satterfield and her husband, Daniel, opened the cheerleading gym five years ago. The couple plans to start a special needs cheerleading team in May.
Marissa was born six weeks premature and weighed just 4 pounds. She spent 10 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, said her mother, Chrystal Wade.
Marissa has caught up physically but is behind mentally, Wade said.
“She yearns to fit in,” she said.
Her daughter had been bullied at school, Wade said, causing Marissa’s confidence to sink very low.
Wade hopes that by tumbling and practicing cheerleading drills with other girls, Marissa will overcome some of her shyness.
“She’s never had the opportunity to do this before,” Wade said.
Abby’s mother, Marina Strohmetz, posted on Facebook that her daughter was looking to donate lessons to an underprivileged child.
Marissa’s mother responded, and a bond was formed.
This isn’t the first time Abby has helped someone in need. In December, she used $10 of gift money to buy Christmas toys for less fortunate children.
“She said, ‘You buy me whatever I want. There isn’t anything I can think of that I want to buy,’” Strohmetz said Abby told her.
A friend heard about the selfless act and gave Abby $100 to spend on herself.
Abby, meanwhile, has her own fan club.
“Abby is always cheering for the other girls,” said Ame Smith, a mother of another student. “She does it for everyone.”