A high school class is making headlines for representing a classmate after she had a seizure during homecoming.
The students at Strom Thurmond High School in Johnston, South Carolina, were there to celebrate the start of the new school year. That meant having a dance, enjoying some football, dressing to the nines, and of course, electing a homecoming king and queen.
Their queen this year was 19-year-old Nataleigh Deal.
But when Deal, who suffers from epilepsy, had a seizure during the game, the night turned unforgettable.
Deal recovered shortly after her seizure and was ready to go back out. But after the ordeal, she struggled to walk in her high heels.
“She was well enough during half time to walk again, but couldn’t wear her heels,” her sister Carleigh later wrote on social media.
“So instead of leaving her the oddball out, every. single. girl. on homecoming court took their shoes off, too. The inclusion and love will never be matched.”
Photos from the evening show the girls from the school posing in evening wear. But none of them are wearing shoes. Instead, they all chose to go barefoot as a way of showing support for a classmate. They wanted to make sure she didn’t feel embarrassed or called out. In their collective mind, it was her night to shine.
The principal at Strom Thurmond High School, Crystal Lotz Hadden, later took to Facebook to add a post that’s since gone viral.
“Strom Thurmond HS family, if you’re wondering why our homecoming court took the field tonight without shoes, it’s because one of our candidates was ill before the game,” wrote Hadden. “When the court learned this, without a second thought, they kicked off their shoes and agreed to walk barefoot as well. I’m honored to know these beautiful young ladies.”
Hadden also praised the students for thinking quickly and taking action with a gesture that meant a lot to Deal herself.
She was grateful for the love and support of all the girls who stood beside her. Although the ordeal was frightening and distressing, thankfully, it wasn’t the end of the evening. Later, Deal would be crowned homecoming queen — a moment that hopefully turned the night from stressful to happy.
“At that moment when I found out I couldn’t wear heels, I didn’t feel too good,” she said. “I heard [them] saying my name and [then] I became homecoming queen. I was feeling much better.”
Deal, who also has Down Syndrome, appreciated the gesture.
Her family expressed their gratitude for a simple action that showed their daughter total love, support, and acceptance in a moment of crisis.
Nataleigh’s mother, Dawn Ford, said she’d worried about sending her daughter to public school.
She was concerned Nataleigh wouldn’t have the friendship and support she needed there. But that night ended her fears.
“I knew Nataleigh was loved and embraced at Strom Thurmond High School, but I had no idea the magnitude of it until Friday night,” Ford said.
Nataleigh said she was thrilled to become homecoming queen and that she loved her friends more than anything else. For the girls in her class, removing their shoes was a simple gesture but what it meant was something much deeper.
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