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His First High School Dance Was Fast Approaching, And There Was Only One Person He Wanted To Take

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Published on 09 Jun 2018 / In Entertainment

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Fifteen-year-old AJ Spader was preparing for his first high school dance. The most important thing on his mind, however, was the one special person he wanted to take with him. The winter formal would have been AJ’s prime moment to dance with a date from school, but he had other plans.

AJ lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with his mother Stephanie, father Tony and his four siblings. His grandmother and Stephanie’s mother, Sue Peters, also lives in the area.

AJ was in the ninth grade at O’Gorman High School. A Catholic school, its mission statement is “to form a community of faith and learning… through gospel values and academic excellence.” AJ certainly showed Catholic values when he put aside his own desires and chose his companion for the dance.

The school’s winter formal fell on Valentine’s Day last year. But what could have been a romantic evening, blossoming from AJ’s first dance, instead reflected a selfless act.

That’s because the high school student chose to take his sister Rebekah instead of a traditional date. And the reason why is heart-breaking. “I wanted to ask my sister because she’s most likely not going to be able to experience high school,” AJ told KSFY. “So I just thought why not ask her to formal.”

His younger sister Rebekah was born with a disorder called hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy (HSAN), a condition that impacts the body’s nervous system. Although it is not a curable illness it can be managed.

Aged six, Rebekah’s health sadly took a turn for the worse. The little girl was also diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of bone marrow disease. To treat it, she went through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Sadly, though, neither proved to be successful.

Fearing all options had been exhausted, Rebekah’s parents decided to stop any further treatment. Instead they would make the most of the time they had left with her. To stay strong the family heeded their motto, “Unbroken, brave and blessed.”

In fact, it was this very saying that inspired the way AJ invited his sister to the dance. On a poster, he wrote, “I would be broken if you weren’t my sister because you taught me how to be brave and I’d be blessed if you went to formal with me.”

Rebekah’s parents were very proud of their son’s actions. Father Tony explained, “He’s thinking about his sister and she’s not going to get to go to the prom or the formal when she’s in high school because she’s probably not going to make it to high school. He just wanted to give her that memory.”


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