An extraordinary night at Strom Thurmond, and a show of solidarity on the homecoming court

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JOHNSTON, S.C. (WJBF) — A heartwarming moment at a high school football game. It was homecoming at Strom Thurmond High, and a candidate for the queen wasn’t feeling well. To make herself feel a bit better, she took off her shoes. That’s where the heartwarming part starts.

Nataleigh Deal has down syndrome and epilepsy. When the homecoming court learned she wasn’t well on her feet, they kicked off their shoes and agreed to walk barefoot in support of Nataleigh.

Becoming a homecoming queen is a dream for most teenage girls in high school.

“The sound in that stadium Friday night, when her name was announced, was enough to tell anyone how that school feels about her,” explained Nataliegh’s mother, Dawn Ford. “You couldn’t even hear anything after they said her name.”

Homecoming is always a fun time for students. But a recent celebration at Strom Thurmond was extra special. For Nataliegh, she got the surprise of her life. She won the title as Strom Thurmond’s homecoming queen. But her family says the big take away is knowing folks are including people with disabilities.

“Her never having to deal with any of that,” said Nataliegh’s sister, Carleigh Deal. “All of the negative stuff that you hear on the news; and all the things you worry about when having a kid with special needs. You are always worried about if they are going to be accepted, or are they going to be included.”

One student on the homecoming court says if she won, she was going to give up the crown to let her classmate shine.

“I wanted to give my crown to her because that’s where my heart was,” said Johonna Miles.

Miles told NewsChannel 6 reporter, Devin Johnson, love has no disability.

“Remember what my parents taught me to love everybody,” explained Miles. “To love everybody, regardless of any situation they are in.”

The new homecoming queen says all of the girls on the homecoming court are queens.

Johonna believes acts of kindness like the one displayed at homecoming will be a tradition for Strom Thurmond. Nataliegh says she plans to join the “Life Program” at Clemson University after she graduates this year.

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