Cheerleader with Down Syndrome to Be Featured on Times Square Billboard

Marlee Kale
Family photo

A 17-year-old cheerleader with Down Syndrome will be featured on a billboard in New York City’s Times Square this Saturday.

Marlee Kale’s mother and father said they get an email every year from the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) about the Times Square video presentation and decided this year to send in a photo for the competition.

Marlee’s parents were thrilled when they found out their daughter’s photo was selected out of thousands of submissions.

“She is much more popular than us,” her father joked.

Marlee, a happy and outgoing teen, started cheerleading when she was eight years old.

“About 10 years ago she joined a special needs squad,” her mom, Leanne Kale-Hoke told WCNC. “There’s a company called Cheery Energy here in Hickory, and they have a number of competitive squads but they also have a special needs team.”

Before the coronavirus, Marlee and her team would compete in several cheerleading competitions.

Once Marlee entered middle school, the coach asked if she wanted to join the squad. Marlee said yes without hesitation.

“So that’s how she got involved with the school sports,” Kale-Hoke said. “The crowd loved her, and we just continued that since she went to high school.”

When asked about her favorite part of cheerleading, Marlee said it was the opportunity to be with her friends.

The Times Square video presentation starts Down Syndrome awareness month on the morning of the NDSS New York City Buddy Walk®.

The Times Square video will be streamed on NDSS social media channels around the world on September 12.


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