WEST ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) – Maddie Vorase is a freshman at Westwood High School and a member of the Patriots Cheer team.

“She brings so much life and fun to our squad,” said Denise Platteborze, the head coach for Westwood Cheer. “She is vibrant and she brings life to the party. She is great with the entire squad, they absolutely love her. Our squad here, we are a family and we all work together and they just love having her on the team.”

While cheerleading wasn’t something Maddie set out to do entering high school, It didn’t take a lot of convincing said Westwood Cheer Coach, Denise Platteborze.

“Maddie is sight impaired,” said Platteborze. “I approached her and I said, ‘Hey, Mads. I would love you on the squad this year and I’ve got a great idea. I can create poster for you, because you do a lot of cheers using posters and I have a megaphone.’ She said, ‘No coach, I want to do the cheers.”

“Well, I always wanted to be one,” said Vorase. “I had my doubts, I was not sure how I wanted to do cheerleading. I was with Denise and she inspired me to be on the cheer team.”

Cheerleading run’s in Maddie’s family. Her mom was a cheerleader throughout her high school career and is a big support system at home.

“When we learn a new cheer we record it and we send it to her over the phone,” said Platteborze. “She and her mom work on it at home and she’s got an assistant here on the team, Coach Jillian, they work on it together and she learns it here at practice, goes home and she comes back to practice and she’s got them down just like the rest of the squad.”

While on the sidelines, Maddie is in her element.

“It’s so much fun,” said Vorase. “I didn’t expect it to be as fun as it is.”

“Watching Maddie cheer is a wonderful thing,” said Platteborze. “If you didn’t already know she had a loss of sight, you wouldn’t know and you couldn’t pick her out from the crowd. She is just that good and that on point. She might have to have somebody help her get her poms and get on step, but you know, she’s right there with the rest of the team and they just absolutely love her.”

Following in her mother’s footsteps isn’t the only reason Maddie decided to join the cheer team. She also wanted to honor her best friend, Tristan.

“Maddie and Tristan have been very good friends since Maddie moved here,” said Platteborze. “I think Maddie moved here in fourth grade and she and Tristan were in the same class.”

Tristan Dieterele spent a lot of his time supporting Patriot Athletics.

“Tristan was our team mascot a couple of years ago,” said Platteborze, who is also Tristan’s aunt. “Tristan was the type of kid that he cheered for everybody no matter what. If they were the first in line or the last in line, he was the one who cheered for all of them.”

That was no different for Maddie, but just last year she lost her biggest cheerleader to suicide.

“We had a lot of fun stories,” said Vorase. “We used to play tag around the school together. He was very nice to me, always cared about me and never left me out of anything that was going on or anything like that.”

“It makes me so proud,” said Tristan’s mom, Jamie Dieterle. “Maddie held such a special place in Tristan’s heart and to know that she’s doing this in honor of him. I know that he’s looking down on her and is so proud of everything she is accomplishing.”

A nonprofit organization has been created in Tristan’s name which is dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

“People can overcome adversity in life,” said Dieterle. “Whether it’s challenges, mental health issues, these are treatable. With encouragement, help and support you can overcome challenges that you face in life. Tristan’s Legacy of Hope & Healing was designed to bring awareness to the mental health issues around bullying, suicide prevention, and other mental health awareness. It also reaches out to Tristan’s scholarship which is set up to his name to a student at Westwood High School who helps to make the high school a better place for all students.”

Like Tristan, Maddie shares a passion for supporting Patriot athletics. She continues to carry on his legacy with every cheer.

“He just always encouraged her to do whatever she wanted, ” said Platteborze. “So, she’s here to help carry on his legacy of never letting anything get in your way and she’s going to help carry on that legacy for hopefully the next four years until she graduates.”