Teen with Down Syndrome Cries Happy Tears While Telling Dad She Made High School's Drill Team
"She gets to do what she loves, and be accepted, and treated as an equal... We can't really ask for anything else," Kecia Cox tells PEOPLE of her daughter Bree
A Utah teen is getting to live out her dreams after earning a spot on her high school's drill team — and she's now paving the way for others with Down syndrome.
Kecia Cox tells PEOPLE it's been a "really touching" few weeks ever since her 14-year-old daughter Bree found out she made the competition dance team at Murray High School.
With an official spot on the squad, Bree will now get to dance alongside her older sister Adrie, 16, and follow in the footsteps of her eldest sister Kyra, 18 — both of whom she calls her "role models."
After earning her spot, Bree relayed the exciting news to her dad — and she couldn't hold back her happy tears. The sweet moment was captured on video and has since gone viral on Kecia's Instagram.
"You fight for your kids with special needs every day, to some degree, because you're their voice," says Kecia, 42. "So when these little victories happen, you're like, 'Okay, it's worth it. They're seen by somebody and they're valued.'"
"She doesn't like to talk about it, but she knows that she's different and has different struggles," she adds. "For her to have this moment where she didn't feel different was worth it all for us. And the fact that she could do it with her sister is huge."
Bree says her love for dancing began at a young age and flourished over time, especially as she watched her sisters compete on the teams, beginning in 2015.
Through the years, Bree memorized every dance and attended each one of Kyra and Adrie's competitions — all with hopes that she, too, would be on the team one day.
But Kecia — who also shares daughter Mia, 14, twins Claire and Livvy, 9, and son Noah, 5 with her husband Kris — wasn't always sure if that would become a reality.
"When Bree saw this new thing — not just classes at the neighborhood dance studio, but they got to be on the football field, and the basketball court and part of the school — that just lit her up in a different way," Kecia explains. "Bree didn't understand that she had a disability, so she saw [Kyra and Adrie] doing things and she was just going to do them too."
"It almost broke my heart back then, because I really didn't know if she would ever get to do it, and how was I going to explain that to her if she didn't?" Kecia continues. "I don't want to limit her by any means, but I also want to protect her."
"We can shout their worth and their capabilities all day long, but if nobody's willing to listen, then it doesn't really get very far," she adds.
Despite her concerns, Kecia says her family "followed Bree's lead" and continued to encourage the teen, while Adrie and Bree practiced their routines together for the April 14-16 auditions.
When tryouts finally rolled around, each girl performed a dance in front of the judges and coaches — and though she had never been on the team before, Bree says she wasn't nervous.
"She just beams when she dances," recalls Kecia. "She just goes in there, doesn't worry about what people think of her, steps on the floor, does what she loves and that's where she's the most at home."
Three days later, Bree and big sis Adrie both learned that they had made the team through individual letters.
As Kecia recalls, Bree was initially calm about the news: "When they first told her she made it, she's like, 'I know.' Like no big deal... She was so proud."
But later that night, Bree's emotions set in as she relayed the exciting news to her dad.
"She's never felt happy tears before," Kecia explains of the viral moment. "She's cried when she's sad. But she was like, 'I'm not sad.' We had no idea that she would get that emotional."
Bree adds she was only crying because she was so happy and likes "being part of the group."
The heartwarming video has since received more than 63,000 likes on Kecia's Instagram — a response that Kecia believes is due to the moment "symbolizing something bigger."
"It's more than just a spot on the team — not just for our family, but for everybody to see this is possible," Kecia says. "It gives hope to all of us that there's more Brees out there, and more coaches and teams like this out there who are going to say, 'Of course, we're going to make a place for you.'"
"People believed in her and saw her, and that's really hard to do with kids with disabilities sometimes," Kecia adds. "There's plenty of people who are nice, and who are going to be kind and talk to you, but to find a place where you're really seen and believed in is like a whole different world. It's beautiful, and she deserves it."
In the time since that day, Bree has been busy learning dances for an upcoming school event. And though time has passed, her excitement is no less present.
"We've gone to doctor's appointments this week, and anywhere basically, and she's like, 'Mom, tell them,'" Kecia says. "And I said, 'Tell them what?' [She'll say,] 'Tell them about I made the drill team!'"
As she looks ahead, Kecia hopes Bree will hold onto that feeling of joy and belonging while also embracing everything that makes her unique.
"Our greatest hope is that she never feels like she wants to change the fact that she has Down syndrome, or that she's not good enough because she has this disability," she explains. "Bree is the happiest when she feels like she belongs and she can do something she loves."
"To have her be in a situation where she gets to do what she loves, and be accepted, and treated as an equal... We can't really ask for anything else," she adds. "And that's where she belongs."
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