15-year-old AJ Spader won thousands of hearts when he made his little sister Rebekah's dreams come true. AJ invited Rebekah to his school's winter formal dance and ensured that Rebekah received the VIP treatment. Here's how Rebekah's special evening went.
When AJ Spader turned 15 years old, he knew he was excited to attend his first winter formal dance. The winter formal is a rite of passage where many teenagers get to dress up and invite a date along to the dance.
But AJ Spader broke the mold and went viral after inviting his 10-year-old younger sister, Rebekah Spader, as his date to the O'Gorman High School winter formal on Valentine's day.
10-year-old Rebekah Spader having her hair done by her grandmother. | Source: Youtube.com/ABC News
AJ DECIDES TO CREATE NEW MEMORIES WITH REBEKAH
While AJ thought of inviting a conventional date to his formal, he soon decided that Rebekah trumped them all. Leading up to the winter formal, AJ asked Rebekah to the dance by drawing the Spader family motto, "broken, brave and blessed," on a big poster.
Their close sibling relationship didn't stop AJ from feeling a little trepidation before asking Rebekah to the winter formal: "I was nervous, yeah," he said.
"Her laugh is pretty great; it's really fun to just be around her and just make memories," AJ said of his younger sister.
Rebekah Spader's older sister doing her makeup for her special day as her brother's date to his winter formal. | Source: Youtube.com/ABC News
REBEKAH'S ADORABLE OUTFIT
Rebekah was delighted to be AJ's date. On the evening of the winter formal in 2016, she looked like a princess in a blue dress with a shimmery neckline and a silver tiara.
AJ also presented Rebekah with a corsage matching her adorable dress. Rebekah's 12-year-old sister did her makeup, and her grandmother transformed her hair into flowy curls.
Rebekah and AJ took many pictures with AJ’s friends, to capture such a lovely evening.
15-year-old AJ Spader speaking to ABC News after inviting his younger sister to his winter formal. | Source: Youtube.com/ABC News
REBEKAH'S DAD LOVES WATCHING HER SMILE
"It's a lot of fun watching her… she's excited, and she's smiling," Tony said. Rebekah enjoyed dinner with AJ's classmates and their dates before the dance event.
In the end, she became too nervous about attending the dance at AJ's high school, but she had a marvelous time with AJ and his friends.
ABC News released a touching video showing the Spader family banding together to pamper Rebekah and capture her happiness on the evening of the winter formal.
Rebekah and AJ Spader pose for pictures in the moments leading up to AJ's winter formal dance. | Source: Youtube.com/ABC News
THE VIRAL VIDEO
The video amassed thousands of views, and one commenter, Penny Layne, commented, "It's obvious that these parents have raised their children with a great balance of love and discipline. I imagine they must be full to bursting with love and pride. Well done!!"
Rebekah and AJ took many pictures with AJ's friends to capture such a lovely evening. The siblings' parents were also proud of AJ's friends for being such good sports.
"AJ and his friends embraced her and embraced the situation and didn’t blink twice that a little 10-year-old sister was going to hang out with them," Tony said. "That for me was the most special thing."
Rebekah and AJ Spader posing with AJ's friends and their dates in the hours leading up to the winter formal dance. | Source: Youtube.com/ABC News
AN EVENING OF JOY TINGED WITH SADNESS
The siblings' parents were proud of everyone for having fun in the moments leading up to the formal dance. But their pride was tinged with sadness because they both knew what the future held for Rebekah.
"It's a joy-filed moment, yet there's a little sorrow because you know that this is probably one of the last opportunities she's going to have to do something like this," Tony said.
When Rebekah was six years old, doctors diagnosed her with myelodysplastic syndrome. This is an aggressive form of cancer that prevents immature blood cells in the bone marrow from becoming healthy and mature blood cells.
Rebekah Spader enjoying dinner along with AJ and his friends on the evening of the winter formal. | Source: Youtube.com/ABC News
SPENDING REBEKAH'S LAST DAYS TOGETHER
Rebekah underwent a bone marrow transplant, but it was sadly unsuccessful. After the failed surgery, Rebekah's parents decided to stop treatment and allow her to live the rest of her days as joyfully as possible.
After the Spader family realized that Rebekah wouldn't live very long, AJ knew that Rebekah deserved to enjoy a high school formal dance years before reaching high school age. "I want to spend as much time with her as possible while she's still doing good," AJ said.
AJ's idea to invite his sister to his winter formal was ideal for Rebekah because she loved school. The loving tribute written by her family explained that she fought to go to school right up until she was unable to attend. Rebekah also loved being social with classmates during recess.
Rebekah and AJ's parents, Tony and Stephanie Spader. | Youtube.com/ABC News
THE SPADER PARENTS' PRIDE IN THEIR CHILDREN
The siblings' mom, Stephanie, expressed pride in all her children for going the extra mile for Rebekah:
"...It makes me have a really happy mom heart knowing that maybe we’ve done something right raising kids that put other people first."
Tony also praised AJ for being an incredibly considerate brother. "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, so he just wanted to give her that memory," he said.
REBEKAH'S PASSING AND LEGACY
In August 2016, Rebekah sadly passed away while surrounded by her loving family. In her memory, the Spader family founded the Rebekah's Legacy Foundation. This non-profit organization raises funds to send gifts to children undergoing cancer treatment.
Paying tribute to her, the Spader family said: "The love that came from this little girl was so sincere, radiant, and contagious…She was continually brave beyond her years as she fought through so many very difficult days."
Although the Spaders' loss of Rebekah at such a young age was heartbreaking, the foundation created in her memory continues to add joy to some of the difficult medical treatment that ill children need to undergo.
Rebekah's shimmery corsage for her special date with her brother for his winter formal. | Source: Youtube.com/ABC News
This story shows us that the love of family surpasses all kinds of heartbreak, including terminal illness. If this story touched you, please share it with your loved ones to spread a message of love and positive family relationships amid terminal illness.
Click here to read about a woman who worked three jobs to adopt a baby she met at his mother's funeral.
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