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It’s been a particularly inspiring homecoming season. So many high schools have taken the opportunity to use the festivities to recognize students who historically have not been crowned or celebrated during homecoming, including transgender teens, members of the student body who live with down syndrome and autism, and high schoolers battling cancer. The race for the homecoming crown has traditionally been a popularity contest, an inherently exclusive tradition, and we love how the script as been flipped and this year homecomings across the country have become a testament to the power of inclusivity.

Recently, as KDVR reports, Manual High School in Denver, Colorado got so inclusive they crowned a homecoming queen who doesn’t even go to their high school (and, in fact, has not yet started kindergarten). However, if anyone deserves a crown, it’s Denver area toddler Avelynn. Avi, as friends and family call her, was born with several complications, has had to undergo several open heart surgeries during her short time on Earth, and, in fact, was not expected to live past 6 weeks. Avi is now three years old, and has developed a special relationship with her local high school’s football team, the Thunderbolts. This summer, as part of their community service mission, the team transformed Avi’s back yard, which was just a stretch of dirt, into a beautiful green lawn, which delighted Avi to no end.

“When we saw that little girl walk out onto her new lawn it touched my heart so much. I wanted to cry,” senior running back Losseny Kone told CNN.

“It’s something that immediately touched us and I think that there’s so few times in your life when you can feel an immediate impact normally it takes days, weeks, years of reflections,” defensive coordinator Benjamin Butler added.

The team wanted to do more for Avi, and, knowing that there is the sad possibility that Avi might not be able to experience high school for herself, they decided to jump the gun and crown the 3-year-old their homecoming queen.

“There is something special about high school and a high school football game on a Friday night and meeting little Avi we wanted to make sure we could share that experience with her,” Butler explained.

Not only was Avi their queen that night, she was also their inspiration as they played their homecoming game.

“Her coming out here today is what really is going to drive us and our passion is what we need as a team and a school to see this girl walk out and be crowned queen. Something she probably won’t experience ever so it really means a lot to us,” Kone told CNN.

In fact, Avi’s resilience is the living embodiment of the team’s motto.

“Our coach always has a saying: Choose life,” Kone explained. “That little girl chose life. She chose to move on.”

We are so glad that the Thunderbolts took the occasion of homecoming to give the gift of a lifetime to a most deserving little girl. This is the new-school definition of homecoming in action, and we love this new tradition of using this big high school event to spread the love around to those who need it most.


(Image via CNN.)