Illini cheer team plan special surprise for 13-year-old fighting for life

The Illini cheerleading team gathered Tuesday evening to record a special surprise for 13-year-old Elizabeth Weidner. (WCCU)

Cheering, chanting and dancing to support a team –- it is the dream of 13-year-old Elizabeth Weidner of Teutopolis, but because of her battle with cancer she was not able to make cheer leading tryouts at her school.

Thanks to the Illini cheer leading team – she is now getting her chance.

"Seeing everyone else join in for a little girl that they don't even know is very inspiring and it makes me want to do even more for others,” general manager of Go For it Sports and organizer of Elizabeth’s surprise, TJ Hodges said.

The Illini cheer leading team gathered Tuesday evening to record a special surprise for Weidner as she continues to fight for her life.

“I saw a Facebook post from one of her mom's friends talking about Elizabeth maybe not making it to cheer leading tryouts because she was going to go through chemo treatments,” Hodges said. “I saw that and it broke my heart."

Weidner will have the opportunity to be a cheerleader for a day at the November 11th U of I football game during Dads weekend.

“For somebody struggling, fighting and is passionate about something like cheer leading, anything we can do to just lift up her spirits we're absolutely going to hop in and do,” Head Coach of the Illini cheer leading team, Stephanie Record said.

The cheer team chanted, “We love Elizabeth!” while recording the video.

“My freshmen year of high school I also had to miss cheer leading tryouts because my mom unfortunately was going through chemo because she had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Illini cheerleader Kailani Norwell said. “Especially for me this is a very heartwarming experience and it just hits close to home."

Former NBA player and Illini alumnus, Brian Cook will help cover expenses for Weidner and her family to come to the game.

“I’ve had family members specifically my wife go through cancer,” Cook said. “It's dear to my heart and I’ve always wanted to come back to the university and do good things for people."

The cheer team shared the recorded surprise with Weidner and her family Tuesday evening. Weidner will be on the field with the team during the November 11th Fighting Illini football game.

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