Brain cancer survivor inspires cheer team heading to Nationals - – Rockford’s News Leader

Brain cancer survivor inspires cheer team heading to Nationals


 The Pierce Athletics Junior Level Two cheer team from Freeport qualified for a spot in the Summit competition in Florida, which is the biggest stage on which they can compete.

One member of the team almost wasn't able to get to this point. He's helped inspire the team to reach great heights.

Jayden Pierce was diagnosed with brain cancer just before his fourth birthday.

"After surgery he couldn't sit by himself, couldn't stand by himself," Jayden's mom and Pierce Athletics cheer coach Angela Pierce said. "He lost all muscle tone and coordination."

Jayden had started tumbling before his diagnosis. He wasn't going to let cancer stop him from doing what he loved.

"It really helped me stay alive," Jayden said. "That's what I think at least. It helped raise my confidence."

Jayden has a twin brother Bayley, who's also a part of the Pierce Athletics cheer team. He was right by his twin's side during his time in the hospital.

"When he would stay in the hospital, I would stay with him almost every second I could," Bayley said. "We went to the gift shop together which was fun. I stayed in the room with him. That really got him to look for the best."

Jayden appreciates having his brother there with him.

"He means everything to me," Jayden says of Bayley. "We do get in fights sometimes. I forgive him sometimes and he forgives me always, like brothers do."

This cheer team feels like an extended family for Jayden.

"Jayden has a good relationship with all of us," Olivia James, a teammate and friend of Jayden's, said. "All of us are like brothers and sisters to each other so it's just really great to have that."

Jayden's mom Angela coaches the team. She believes being a part of the team helped Jayden recover faster than other patients. 

"I think that helps tremendously," Pierce said. "I think initially in the hospital it was his twin brother being around. He was always kind of boosting him up and giving him a challenge to try to keep up with. Here with all these kids, he loves all the kids that he cheers with."

Jayden feels the love in return.

"Everyone is happy for me that I survived, and I trust them," Jayden said.

Now Jayden and the team get to go to Florida to compete in the Summit national tournament.

The team is raising money for the trip, which costs more than $900 per person. There are 17 athletes on the team, along with two coaches.

Donations can be made at You can also email Angela Pierce at

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