Desiree Andrews was cheering on her basketball team at Lincoln Middle School when some bullies started to pick on the young girl with Down Syndrome. Little did Desiree know it was a moment that would alter her life forever.
The incident, which happened last year, has changed a lot of things for Desiree. The girl who "dances to her own beat" no longer walks to class alone, and has plenty of friends around her thanks in large part to the basketball players who took a stand for her.
The incident took place during a basketball game last year. When some players from the Lincoln basketball team saw what was happening to Desiree, they decided to take action. A group of players walked off the floor during the game and confronted the bullies, telling them to leave Desiree alone.
"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."
Miles Rodriguez, one of the Lincoln Middle School players who walked off the floor to support Desiree, said they didn't think it was fair the way their friend was being treated.
"So when I heard they were talking about her like, it kind of like made me mad," Rodriguez said.
Scooter Terrien, another player who confronted the bullies, said he thought it was an injustice that the girl with Down Syndrome was being picked on.
"It's not fair when other people get treated wrong because we're all the same. We're all created the same. God made us the same way," said Scooter Terrien, Lincoln Middle School basketball player.
The players are now in eighth grade, and at the final home game of their careers they decided to again honor Desiree Andrews. The team now refers to their home court as "D's House" and before games get into a group huddle and chant "Who's house? D's house!"
Desiree's father Cliff Andrews said his daughter was inspired by the show Glee, which features a cheerleader with Down Syndrome. Cliff said he tried to thank the boys who stood up for his daughter, but found it too difficult to put his thanks into words.
"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."
Ben Woods, an eighth grader who goes to Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum but plays on the Lincoln basketball team, said the incident has helped more than just Desiree.
"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."
Teachers say the incident with Desiree Andrews and the basketball players who supported her has helped the entire school. Laura Stone, a longtime teacher and the school's cheerleading coach, said having a cheerleader with Down Syndrome and seeing basketball players rise to her defense has helped all the students "grow and become more compassionate."
[Image via Kenosha News]