Some middle school boys were in the middle of a game when they saw something happening in the stands. They immediately stopped, dropped everything, and walked off the court to show their disgust with the situation.
Desiree Andrews is a cheerleader in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and she learned firsthand that middle school isn’t always the kindest of places. Middle school can certainly be a trying time as preteens turn into full-fledged teenagers, and emotions and awkwardness run amok. For some, it’s made especially difficult if there is something about them that sets them apart from the herd.
Sadly, while on the sidelines during a school basketball game, cheering on her team, Desiree caught the attention of rival fans in the stands. A few attendees began bullying the young girl, but unbeknownst to them, they captured the attention of three Lincoln Middle School basketball players, who weren’t too pleased. Miles Rodriguez, Chase Vasquez, and Scooter Terrien took notice when fans in the stand decided to bully Desiree, who goes by “D” and happens to have Down syndrome, and the boys weren’t about to tolerate seeing her being picked on.
While some might have dismissed the incident as just another example of kids being cruel, these players stepped up to make it stop. In fact, they even halted the basketball game as they decided to do something about it. Proving Desiree has some friends in her corner, they came to her defense, stopping the game by leaving the court. “The kids in the audience were picking on D, so we all stepped forward,” Chase told a Milwaukee news outlet, describing the moment he and a few other players rallied to support the eighth-grade girl.
Although Chase, Miles, and Scooter initiated the rescue, they had the support of their whole team when they called a timeout and walked off the court to take immediate action. “We were mad. We didn’t like that. We asked our sports director to talk to the people and tell them not to make fun of her,” 14-year-old Miles recalled. They didn’t stop there either. Since the bullying incident occurred, the boys, who have befriended Desiree, often walk her to class, ensuring that she’s safe and showing others she has their support.
When Cliff Andrews, Desiree’s dad, heard what had happened, he broke down in tears as he thanked the basketball players for their act of kindness. Meanwhile, Desiree, whose interest in cheerleading stems from the popular Fox TV show “Glee,” called the gesture “sweet, kind, awesome, amazing.”
According to NY Daily News, D’s dad further explained, “They have a character with Down syndrome who is a cheerleader, and she said, ‘If she can be a cheerleader, I can be a cheerleader,’” referring to “Glee” and how the show influenced D’s decision to join the squad.
The incident has caused school spirit at Lincoln Middle School to soar as kids focus on inclusion and kindness. Not only was Desiree made part of the starting lineup introduction, where she high-fives and fist-bumps all the players before the game, but the gymnasium is now called “D’s House,” giving a nod to Desiree via her nickname. If you attend one of the games, you may even hear a new chant that goes, “Whose house? D’s House!”
The gesture stuck Athletic Director Timothy Nieman so much that he had a banner hung with the new title. “This is what standing up, being a true team, not only a basketball team but a team of people that are going to support somebody,” Nieman told the local news. Indeed, and it’s no wonder the boys have since received national attention as well as a Musial Award for Sportsmanship.
Middle schoolers aren’t always known for standing up to a crowd, but a few heroes stepped in to prove that all it takes is a little courage and character to stop bullying and change the course of someone’s school experience. And,
what Scooter had to say explains perfectly why these three boys didn’t hesitate to do what they knew was the right thing. “It’s not fair when other people get treated wrong, because we’re all the same,” Scooter explained. “We’re all created the same; God made us the same way.”
These incredible teammates have set an amazing example, not just for students on their own campus but for kids and adults all across the country. We should all emulate their reactions and help where we see a need. One can only imagine how proud these boys’ parents are, as they should be for having raised quality kids. Perhaps their story will inspire others to take a stand and do the right thing. It certainly restored my faith in our youth and in humanity.