The idea of asking out a high school girl to a formal dance for the first time can be intimidating for many high school boys. Usually, the excitement over the opportunity to take a date to a dance is ultimately able to trump any fears.
15-year-old AJ Spader gave up his chance to ask a fellow classmate from O’Gorman High School to the winter formal in exchange for a much more meaningful date. AJ asked his 10-year-old sister, Rebekah Spader, to the high school dance instead.
Most high school boys would not be as eager to include their little sisters in all of the dance activities like getting ready, taking photos, and eating dinner beforehand. AJ, however, was delighted to provide his sister with what was possibly her only chance at experiencing a high school formal dance.
Rebekah was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome and eventually leukemia. Her family decided that she would not receive further treatment after a failed bone marrow transplant.
Attending the high school dance with her brother was one of the ways that her family helped her live fully with the keen awareness that her time on earth was limited. Rebekah eagerly looked forward to dressing up and eating dinner with her older brother by her side supporting her and making sure she had an enjoyable time.
AJ explained, “I wanted to ask my sister because she’s most likely not going to be able to experience high school. So I just thought why not ask her to formal.”
Rebekah wore a beautiful formal dress, had her hair curled, and even wore a sparkly tiara. It was her day to feel like a princess.
Rebekah even joined her brother and his friends for a nice dinner. She can be seen grinning from ear to ear in the classic photos taken before the dance as she and her brother wore a coordinating corsage and boutonniere.
Tony Spader, the father of AJ and Rebekah, was very pleased with his son’s decision to take Rebekah to the dance. He loved seeing her experience such a normal rite of passage, even at her young age.
Spader said, “A lot of times there’s a joy filled moment, but yet there’s a little sorrow because you know this is probably one of her last opportunities she’s going to have to do something like this.”
Rebekah Coeli Spader passed away on Aug. 4, 2016. She was surrounded by family and loved ones who not only helped her fight health battles, but made sure she had fun memories like being her brother’s date to a formal dance.
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