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Cheerleader With Legal Blindness Empowers Peers To Reach Out To Each Other

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – At a University of Utah football game, there is so much to take in: the game, the fans, the excitement. For one high flying, fearless Utah cheerleader, though, it’s all shadows.

Savanah Vigil is legally blind.

“I don’t really use my eyes to cheer at all,” she said. “I was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease, which is in the retina of my eye, so I have no correction with glasses or contacts.”

Savanah relies on her other senses when cheering.

“I go with touch, and my body just remembers where to go,” she said. “I have great teammates that lead me around to help me get in line, but I just go off body motion.”

“The team really embraces her,” said coach Stephanie Baxter. “The guys will say, ‘OK, who has Savy?’ It’s awesome. They take care of her.”

At the university, Savanah has a great support system.

“She just brings an incredible spirit to our team,” team captain Jared Heldt said. “Just positivity.”

“I just think she is the greatest,” cheerleader Haley Skinner said. “You will not meet a kinder person.”

For this young athlete, though, it wasn’t always that way.

Back up a few years and picture this: A young girl at Bingham High School, hiding out in the parking lot because she literally couldn’t see her friends.

“I never could find them at lunch to go sit with them, so I would just sit there, hopefully waiting for someone to walk up to me,” Savanah said. “It was hard.”

She took matters into her own hands.

“No one deserves to feel like this,” she said. “I walked into the principal’s office and was like, ‘Is there anyone who is alone? Because I will sit with them and be their friend.'”

Savanah’s actions lead to the formation of the Golden Gate Initiative, a pro social club encouraging students to reach out to each other. It has now spread to multiple schools and has more than 5,000 members.

Savanah stays active with the club, speaking to PTA and student groups around Utah.

Now she’s continuing to show that spirit of support to the U of U.

“She’s becoming a huge role model in the community,” coach Stephanie said. “That’s cool to see because I think everyone needs someone to look up to.”

Savanah Vigil received a High 5 for taking kindness to new heights and inspiring students in Utah to reach out and make a difference.

“Nobody deserves to be alone in this world,” she said. “Everyone deserves to be noticed, and an act of kindness can change someone’s whole year or even life.

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