You can't spell cheerleader without leader

Jenna Kedy and her gold medal

Jenna Kedy won't let arthritis stop her.

Those are the words the young Halifax resident recently shared on Instagram, proudly announcing her team had won gold in the adaptive abilities category at the International Cheer Union's in Orlando, Florida.
It's hard to disagree with such a statement.

The amount of preparation, sacrifice and commitment it takes to simply make it to this competition, squaring off against the best squads from around the world, is immeasurable.

Winning it is on a whole other level.

For 18-year-old Jenna, who has been living with juvenile arthritis for the past seven years, the challenge was immense. And through it all, she still found time to babysit in her community, follow her path to become a teacher and volunteer for a local children's hospital committee.

Her hunger to help younger kids might have been fed by the leadership program at the Arthritis Society's Camp JoinTogether.

"I love Camp JoinTogether, and the leadership program. It's one of my favourite experiences ever. It teaches us leadership skills and how to create connections. It's almost a class on how to be a role model. I love to learn about connecting with youths with special needs." 

It would mean the world to Jenna to become a full-time Camp JoinTogether counsellor someday, but until then, she will be returning to Camp this summer for the last year as a camper, but with an added leadership role.
And in the meantime, she already has her eyes set on next year's cheer competition, where she and her team – which includes athletes from New Brunswick and across Nova Scotia -- will be the defending champions.

"I'm already back in the gym, working out every day, jogging, doing some yoga – or anything that helps me to stay in shape.

I want to help kids in my community get active, live healthy lives. I'd love to coach cheerleading, too, perhaps at a high level, one day. But for now, I want to keep competing as long as I can."