If anyone knows teenagers, is your average high school teacher.
As an English teacher at Merritt Island High School in Florida, Amy Finney often gets a chance to witness what she calls, “the magic of teenagers,” (no, she’s not being sarcastic!) Even so, what she witnessed on the sidelines of her school’s most recent homecoming game took her breath away.
Amy’s 19-year-old son, Parks Finney, is a student at the school. He was born with Periventricular Leukomalacia, or PVL, which is a birth injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. As a result, Parks has trouble with speech and cognitive abilities.
Over the years, Parks has become a big part of athletics at his school. He is the manager of both the softball and the track and field teams, and he’s always on the sidelines cheering for his friends on the basketball, football, and cheerleading teams.
Parks has a lot of friends. So many, in fact, that when Homecoming rolled around, all of the top contenders for Homecoming King decided that if they won, they’d give the crown to Parks. On the big night, 17-year-old James Verpaele did just that!
“We all came together and decided that no matter who wins, Parks should get it because he’s a friend to all of us,” James explained. “We all love him.”
Moments after being crowned king, the varsity football player dashed over to Parks, who was also in the Homecoming court, and told him he was the king.
“He thought I was coming to give him a high-five or a fist bump,” the senior recalled. “And then I was like, ‘No, Parks, you’re coming with me,’ and I brought him onto the field.”
Amy was moved to tears by the gesture, and she wasn’t alone. As the crowd stood and began to cheer and call out her son’s name, she noticed a lot of misty eyes around her.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium,” said the proud mom and teacher, adding, “I’m watching all of this unfold and the tears just start falling. My whole family we crying. Parks’ smile was huge and the crowd was chanting his name.”
When asked why James followed through with the pact to hand over his crown, the player reflected on how much everyone in school loves him… and how much Parks adds to the atmosphere at school.
“Parks comes to all the games and most practices and cheers us on,” James explained. “He’s a supporter of all the athletics. We call him the Mayor because he knows everyone. He’ll stop and ask, ‘Do you need anything’ ‘How are you doing?'”
Amy says the students at Merrill have always accepted and welcomed her son, adding to her faith that teenagers are actually very kind people, when given the chance to be.
“To know that Parks’ peers feel that way about him is so heartwarming,” Amy shared on Facebook. “Having a special needs child isn’t something I discuss much, because he’s just Parks to us. But one thing we’ve wanted for him is acceptance, and tonight we saw an amazing display of that.”
What a sweet gesture, and to learn that James and all of the other HoCo king candidates agreed to do it beforehand just makes it all the nicer. Well done, teenagers!
Don’t forget to share this magical moment with others.
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