This post is different from those I usually share. It’s about how a positive story can go viral—and it’s a story that I’m proud to say comes from my hometown, Kenosha, WI. I haven’t asked for permission from the Kenosha News to share their story, but I’m certain that they won’t mind because it has already been shared around the world.
(Don’t miss the follow-up after the story.)
WELCOME TO D’s HOUSE
Lincoln basketball team rallies around cheerleader with Down syndrome
by Deneen Smith of the Kenosha News on March 9, 2015
The peer pressure of middle school isn’t always the easiest atmosphere in which to stand up for what’s right.
But when some members of the crowd at a Lincoln Middle School basketball game last year began making fun of Desiree Andrews, a cheerleader who has Down syndrome, boys from the team decided to intervene.
During a time out, a member of the team went into the crowd to have a talk.
“One of the kids stepped up and said, ‘Don’t mess with her,’” said Brandon Morris, who was the boys seventh-grade coach last year. “Then all of the guys got together to show her support.”
Eighth-grader Miles Rodriguez, 14, remembers the game when kids in the stands were giving Desiree a hard time.
“We were mad; we didn’t like that. We asked our sports director to talk to the people and tell them not to make fun of her,” he said.
He said they have made a difference. “Everyone loves her now,” he said.
In a tradition that started last year, the introduction of the starting lineup for Lincoln’s boys basketball team always includes Desiree, said coach David Tolefree. After the introductions, and just before the start of play, the boys run over to Desiree for high fives and fist bumps.
The school renamed Lincoln’s gym “D’s House” in her honor, and students wear T-shirts celebrating her inclusion with the team.
“They have really stepped up, almost like they are big brothers to her,” Tolefree said. “It’s good to see.”
On Monday, for their their last home game of the season — and the last home game for eighth-graders, including Desiree — the team held a D’s House celebration.
The basketball team and cheerleaders gathered at the center of the gym for a group huddle. “Who’s house? D’s house!” the boys chanted.
Eighth-grader Ben Woods, 14, a student at Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum who plays on the Lincoln basketball team, said he and his teammates are glad to support Desiree and to promote kindness at the school.
“It’s really a good message,” Woods said.
He said he is also happy to see the reaction of the crowd to the team’s efforts.
“I think it’s great because some people thought Lincoln was a bad school, that it had a bad reputation, and I think this helps people think differently about that.”
Inspired by ‘Glee’
Desiree’s father Cliff Andrews said his daughter’s interest in cheerleading came from the television show “Glee.”
“She always enjoyed the show ‘Glee.’ They have a character with Down syndrome who is a cheerleader. And she said, ‘If she can be a cheerleader, I can be a cheerleader.’”
Desiree said she loves cheerleading because she likes to dance. Of the boys’ support, she said, “It’s amazing.”
Her dad agrees. “It’s been a godsend to us,” he said. “Those boys, I tried to talk to them in person, but I couldn’t keep the tears back.”
Laura Stone, a Lincoln teacher and the cheer coach for 12 years, said she thinks Desiree’s participation on the team, and at school, has helped her students grow and become more compassionate.
“She has been very special to us,” Stone said.
Desiree’s story continues to make news. Recently, she met her inspiration, Actress Lauren Potter, who plays cheerleader Becky Jackson on the Fox TV show “Glee.” Potter was in town to give the keynote speech before the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin’s regional awareness and fundraising walk.
Readers look for positive stories.
Remember that when you write in whichever form you choose. Be positive and write stories with a positive outcome. You never know, your story might just go viral.
(Desiree’s story has been shared and viewed
almost two million times on YouTube!)
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