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Today's Family Magazine

Wickliffe majorette proves that anything is possible

By Donna L. Robinson

“If anyone has a dream like I did, work for it and achieve it. When you see a great opportunity in your reach, take it and don’t look back.  If you don’t, you’ll never know what you could be missing.”  No better words could be spoken by 14-year-old Rachel Sumrada, freshman majorette for the Wickliffe High School (WHS) Swing Band.

The very unique and special thing about Rachel’s achievements is that she lost her left leg at birth and was fitted with a non-movable prosthetic device at around 1 year old.  According to her mom, Barbara Sumrada, it resembled a doll leg.

Rachel developed an interest in twirling a baton at 3 years old while watching her older cousin as a majorette for the WHS band.  “She liked the sparkly outfits –– a lot,” smiled Barbara.

Barbara added, “Rachel tends to shy away from the attention she receives because she is an amputee.  The word 'inspiration,' although flattering, makes her uncomfortable.  She is adamant about sharing the spotlight with her fellow majorettes and band members.  I told her at the beginning, that she may get people’s attention at first because she is wearing a prosthetic leg, but she will hold their attention because she is a good majorette.”

Rachel started taking baton lessons in 5th grade through the Wickliffe Middle School L.A.B. afterschool program, then after three years moved into the majorette training class at Showstoppers School of Baton in Wickliffe.

Audrey Moore, owner/operator at Showstoppers, continues to be a positive influence on Rachel by challenging her to go further than she thought she could.  “She does not treat Rachel differently than anyone else…something Rachel has strived for,” said Barbara.

Moore said, “Here we concentrate on the skills needed to be a high school majorette. The bodywork required was more than challenging but Rachel was determined and found a way to conquer those skills.”

Rachel has really blossomed as a majorette in the band according to Barbara.  “She is proud of herself –– I can see it in her eyes. It has given her a sense of accomplishment and a desire to continue to get better.  For the first time in her life, she is part of a real team. I feel a sense of pure joy for her as I know how much this means to her. The sky is the limit with her…she continues to amaze me.”

Pamela Graves, band director for Wickliffe High School said, “The first time I met Rachel at tryouts, her smile lit up the room. She was nervous but her audition was wonderful. Band camp was when everyone got to meet Rachel.  She was right in there with the group working hard and having fun.”

Rachel’s energy and spirit have been on display for people to see. She recently performed at the Wickliffe homecoming game twirling fire batons as well as marched in the Columbus Day parade. She plans to join the flute section of the band when marching season is over.

Rachel said, “I went from football games, to the homecoming parade, to the LCMEA band festival and I have gotten to inspire others wherever I went.  Twirling means the world to me and I couldn’t thank the people enough who have helped me get this far.”

When asked what her goals are for her future, Rachel said, “I would like to teach twirling to kids with other disabilities so they can have as equal of a chance at being successful and happy as I am now.”