"The inclusion and love will never be matched," Nataleigh Deal's sister Carleigh wrote on Facebook

By Rachel DeSantis
October 09, 2019 06:06 PM
Homecoming court
Courtesy Crystal Lotz Hadden

A group of homecoming queen candidates in South Carolina shed their shoes and walked barefoot during their school’s festivities — all in the name of helping a fellow student with epilepsy.

Nataleigh Deal, 19, was up for the honor of homecoming queen on Friday at Strom Thurmond High School in Edgefield County but fell ill shortly before the celebration began.

Her sister Carleigh Deal explained in a Facebook post that Nataleigh has epilepsy and suffered a seizure upon arriving to the game.

“She was well enough during half time to walk again, but couldn’t wear her heels,” Carleigh wrote. “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.”

The sweet gesture was noted by Strom Thurmond’s assistant principal, Crystal Lotz Hadden, who recognized the court for their quick thinking in a viral Facebook post.

“I’m honored to know these beautiful young ladies. You are all queens,” Lotz Hadden wrote.

For her part, Nataleigh, a senior who also has Down syndrome, was especially appreciative — and her night got even better when she was crowned homecoming queen.

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Nataleigh Deal (second from left)

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“At that moment when I found out I couldn’t wear heels, I didn’t feel too good,” she told ABC News. “I heard [them] saying my name and [then] I became homecoming queen. I was feeling much better.”

Lillian Mann, a fellow homecoming court candidate, told the network it was a no-brainer that she would step up for Nataleigh and that she was more than happy to kick off her heels.

“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,” Mann said. “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.”

Nataleigh Deal (center)
Courtesy Crystal Lotz Hadden

The moment was overwhelmingly emotional for sister Carleigh, who wrote in a follow-up Facebook post that the kindness exhibited by the girls brought her to tears.

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“I have cried more times today than I have in a while thinking about how blessed we are to be in a community that loves our girl beyond what we could’ve ever comprehended before Friday night,” she wrote.

She continued: “The news interviews, the love and support we have seen from this community is all more than my mom, Nat or myself ever could’ve imagined. Complete love and inclusion in this world are both still VERY much alive and I pray every child, special needs or not, experiences and expresses them just the same. I am so proud of this kid my heart could burst.”

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