Born with a brain tumor that caused daily seizures, Mia Benge spent her childhood being constantly monitored.
“You think about kids when they’re eight and nine and they’re going to softball practice or cheer practice or cheer camp,” says her mother, Keri.
While her friends were playing, Mia was fighting for her life. Her courage and strength earned her a nickname – Mighty Mia.
“If your day is bad, all you’ve got to do is spend 20 minutes with Mia and she’ll change your life completely,” says Keri. “She wakes up every morning with a smile on her face, no matter what.”
“She was very sick and it was her Justin Bieber – Taco Bell party hosted by Matt Overton. He had some cheerleaders there. And ever since, Mia and I have had a special connection,” says Colts cheerleader Mariah H. “She’s kind of like my personal little cheerleader. We encourage each other and just love to be around each other. So, any chance we get to be around each other is a great one.”
And now, they’re going to get the chance more often. On Saturday, Mia had her first clinic as a Junior Colts Cheerleader. At 18, she’s making up for lost time.
“This is that full circle. She’s finally able to do it. People look at her in a chair and she’s the only one out there that’s in a chair right now,” Keri says. “But I’m like, ‘Why not? Why can’t she be out there?’ She’s missed a portion of her teenage years being in and out of hospitals, battling rehabs and coming back from a stroke, so why not?”
Youth Cheer Coordinator Anna King says she’s thrilled to have Mia on the squad this year.
“Mia is an inspiration to all the cheerleaders and many people in the Colts organization. So, to see her out there having fun means the world to us.”
It’s a love of the Colts that brings the girls into the junior cheer program. But, what they get out of it is something more.
“There’s obviously the fun aspect of dancing and getting to perform at the games and the showy aspect. But, we really want to promote positive self-esteem and growth in these girls and just bring their confidence out,” says King. “From the first clinic to the last clinic, I love watching the girls come out of their shells and seeing the growth that they’ve had through the season.”
Mariah says Mia has always had that spark. Even from her hospital bed, it was obvious – she was a fighter. And she fought hard to get to where she is today – on the Colts practice field.
“It’s about time that she’s here. Mia has finally worked her way up, she’s got more strength, got more sass, got poms, got a pair of boots, so she’s ready to take the field and show Colts Nation what she’s about.”
It’s Mia’s time to shine.
“The song they’re dancing to is ‘Sunshine in My Pocket’ and that’s what the Colts have always been. So, how fitting for her first dance,” Keri says.
It’s a right of passage for the Colts Cheerleaders to wear the boots. And for Mia, even more so.
“They had a battle for the boots not too long ago,” says Keri. “Mia battled for her boots and battled back from a stroke to earn them.”
At the end of Saturday’s practice, Mia got her boots.
And we can’t wait to see where she takes them.
Mia will be cheering on the Colts this season.
But she’ll have her own section cheering her on.