Homecoming is an event that many American teens look forward to all year.
For 19-year-old Nataleigh Deal of Edgefield, South Carolina, the big night was even more exciting because she was in the running to become homecoming queen. The days leading up to the game were spent putting up campaign posters and selecting the perfect dress and matching heels to feel like royalty.
But as Nataleigh and her fellow court nominees lined up on the sidelines at Strom Thurmond High School that evening, things went very wrong. Nataleigh has Down syndrome and epilepsy and had a seizure that made her fall to the ground.
Once it passed, her mother and sister sat with her until she recovered. They agreed she could still participate, but she’d have to take off her shoes because she was unsteady. “At that moment when I found out I couldn’t wear heels, I didn’t feel too good,” Nataleigh said later.
Miesha Gordon, her special needs teacher, quietly informed the other teens, and their reaction shocked everyone. Without hesitating, they took off their shoes in solidarity.
“My first thoughts about walking across barefoot were, ‘Of course, I’ll do it!’ Not only because my heels were hurting my feet, but mainly to make Nataleigh feel better,” said Lillian Mann, a fellow candidate. “Nataleigh is such a sweet person and … watching her have her seizure made me want to do anything I could to help her feel like the queen she is.”
Then circumstances got even sweeter for Nataleigh when she was crowned Homecoming Queen! At that point, she said, “I was feeling much better.”
Nataleigh’s family was deeply moved. “All her life, we have prayed for love, acceptance, and total inclusion for Nataleigh,” her mother Dawn Ford said. “I knew she was loved by her peers, but had no idea the magnitude of how much until Friday night.”
This is small-town America at its finest! We couldn’t be prouder of these young women for showing Nataleigh how much they care about her. Being named homecoming queen is exciting enough, and this wonderful moment made the night unforgettable for everyone involved!
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