A lesson of unconditional love was demonstrated by the student body of Elkin High School on Friday night.
Students selected Katherine “Katie” Gibson as its homecoming queen, a senior who according to her parents, faculty, and students, suffers from significant disabilities limiting her mobility, learning ability, and speech.
“No condition has been diagnosed,” said her mother, Marie Gibson. “Doctors have no name for it (the medial condition), but Katie doesn’t focus on her limitations. She focuses on her strength that’s in her heart, her ability to love everyone, and Katie has never felt less than loved here in Elkin.”
For homecoming, Katie was escorted by her father, Roy Gibson.
Seeing past Katie’s disabilities, students erupted into a celebration during halftime when it was announced that Katie would be crowned.
After the announcement, the new queen made her walk with her father toward the center sideline and was formally greeted by school officials, last year’s homecoming queen, and a barrage of photo flashes.
“Katie, Katie, Katie,” shouted many of the spectators.
“We love you Katie,” shouted other students.
A parade of hugs followed the ceremony and stretched into the third quarter of the game.
“This is a great moment for Elkin High School. This kind of support is special. I have seen Katie reach a ton of people. She deserves this. The student body spoke very well with this decision,” said former school counselor Ginger Isenhoward.
Katie and Isenhoward turned toward the field for a brief moment. Elkin had just recovered a fumble and cheers erupted.
Katie then expressed excitement about winning the crown.
“It feels good,” said Katie smiling. “It feels so good.”
“I’m overwhelmed seeing that the student body has this kind of heart,” said Marie Gibson, Katie’s mother. “Katie reaches a lot of people with her love and affection. This is huge moment for her.”
Minutes later, Katie’s father returned to the section of the bleachers. When Katie recognized her father’s presence, she leaped into his arms, crying with emotion. According to Katie’s mother, Katie routinely finds comfort and connects with her father when facing life’s emotions.
“Oh daddy,” said Katherine in between tears.
“I love you,” replied her father, who was continuously rubbing the back of the new homecoming queen. “I’m so proud of you.”
The family spent several minutes in an embrace. North Wilkes had scored a touchdown to take the lead. The crowd resumed its duty attempting to energize its Elkin football team back into the game. The band showcased tunes. Children played games along the sidelines, eating funnel cakes and other snacks. Cheerleaders gathered into formation producing stunts and chanting in sync. It was a typical Friday night under the lights in Elkin.
“It hits an emotional button with Katie sometimes,” said mother Gibson on Katie needing a moment with her dad. “Her greatest gift is compassion. She is so unselfish and it’s her gift. She loves people, loves being with other students. Katie was completely non-verbal until she was a 5-year-old. Everyday is a gift, even when she needs a moment to process her emotions.”
The queen regained composure and returned for the interview.
“I like this,” said Katherine. “I thank everyone for giving this to me.”
Speaking of their hope for Katie’s future, friends shouted next would be “Ms. USA.”
Katie looked at them and smiled.
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org