The Cleveland Firestarters are an accepting bunch. That was Kellie Weenink's vision when she started the junior roller derby team for 7- to 17-year-old girls. "You don't have to fit the mainstream mold of being previously athletic," says Weenink, former president of the Burning River Roller Girls. "You don't have to be a cheerleader or a bookworm." Weenink, who is a team coach along with Victoria Stanbridge, says roller derby has transformed the 30 girls who participate. "The whole self-esteem in a lot of the girls has increased," she says. Here's three reasons to check out their public debut, Corndogs & Carnage, on July 30 at the Summit County Fairgrounds.
It's an Ohio first. The Firestarters are the first and only junior team in Ohio, so up until this first home match, they've had to travel to compete.
Everyone participates. No matter the age, all girls face one another in bouts. "People are freaking out because we got an 8-year-old falling down on concrete," Weenink says. She assures that although some Firestarters are very young, they are tough.
They go all out. "As long as it's legal, the impact of the hit is up to you," Weenink says. Her 13-year-old daughter, Jenna, has fallen her fair share of times but has been on the other side, too. "I don't like falling, but I like to hit people," Jenna says.