December 22, 2021

Schoolgirl with a Disability Is Unexpectedly Asked to Prom by a Popular School Athlete

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For many, attending prom will always be held in their hearts as a beautiful memory. However, occasionally some are excluded due to their differences. One school athlete was determined to challenge this norm. 

In 2016, Ellie McCool was a senior at Fort Zumwalt West High School in O'Fallon, Missouri, and the prom was coming up. She had no idea how one special person would be asking her to go with him on this magical night. 

McCool was diagnosed with a severe brain disorder called Rett Syndrome, making life slightly more challenging.

Ellie McCool and Brendan Ritchie posing for a prom picture. │Source: News



However, although there is a lot of stigmatization attached to those with disabilities, this senior had a lot of loyal friends, including Brendan Ritchie. 

Ritchie was talented and ambitious, with A's across the board and a solid athletic presence at the school, playing ice and roller hockey and running track. 

Brendan Ritchie learning at school. │Source: News



Ritchie decided to ask his companion, McCool, to go to the dance with him. Speaking about his friend, the student expressed

"She's just a very happy person. She is always positive. She's always got a smile on her face."

Not only did this senior want to ask her to the event, but he did so in a highly personalized and well-thought-out manner.

Ellie McCool when she was a child.│Source: News



Knowing that her favorite film is "Iron Man," the sweetheart of a track runner used a poster related to this, which read

"Ellie, will you be my Iron Woman @ Prom? [sic]" 

He did so while sporting an Iron Man mask in front of the whole school. Of course, no girl would be able to resist such a romantic gesture, and so she said yes to a round of applause.

Ellie McCool, her friends and her date Brendan Ritchie posing for a prom picture.│Source: News



McCool had a beautiful evening in her shimmering dress, enjoying the dance with her date and friends. Humorously speaking about the night, Ritchie said

"People like to say I'm not really a good dancer but I like to disagree with them." 

The teenage girl's mother, Mickie McCool, also joined in on the banter, sarcastically quipping that seeing her daughter attending prom did not bring any tears to her eyes. 



Simultaneously, others had more serious yet still touching comments about the night and the fact that Ritchie asked her to the dance. Friend Elizabeth Steiner stated

"Every girl dreams of having a date to her senior prom. So the fact that Ellie was going to have one too was awesome."

We are all battling through the inclusivity maze, struggling to figure out ways and how exactly to provide equal space for those with disabilities. McCool and friends could perhaps be an example of where to begin. 


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