SYRACUSE — Bailee Singleton and Keileigh Reid will probably attend many high school dances in their lives, but the night when they accompanied Braiden Singleton will be one they will never forget.
The two good friends escorted Braiden to Syracuse High School’s Preference Dance on Jan. 26.
Braiden, who is Bailee’s older brother by 11 months, has several physical and cognitive challenges.
Their mother, Kendra Hansen Nilsen, said Braiden was born blind. He also has cerebral palsy, autism and several cognitive disabilities.
His verbal communication is limited, but that does not stop the 17-year-old high school junior from sharing his zest for life with those around him.
“Everybody loves Braiden. All the kids, all the teachers, they are just so proud of him,” said Nilsen.
Bailee, 16, said she has always wanted to take Braiden to a dance, and she and Keileigh have talked about doing it for several years.
“(Braiden and Bailee) have been really close through their whole lives. When it came time for the preference dance, the girls said ‘Let’s take him’,” Nilsen said.
Bailee said she and Keileigh helped Braiden get ready for the dance, borrowing some dress clothes for him to wear.
“He wouldn’t wear a tie,” Bailee said, even though the girls tried to convince him to wear one.
When they arrived at the dance, they stood in line to have their photos taken, and then spent time walking around and dancing.
“They love Braiden,” Bailee said of the other students at the dance. “Everyone talked to him and rubbed his back. He just listened. They were telling him how handsome he was.”
Nilsen said she could tell Braiden enjoyed the dance — when they got in the car afterwards, he started repeating what his peers told him.
“He said, ‘You look handsome, Braiden,’ ” Nilsen said, explaining that Braiden always refers to himself in the third person.
“It was really heartwarming. Being there with him was an awesome experience. You don’t know how he feels about it, but we were ecstatic to take him. It was so much fun to have him there. It was just amazing,” said Keileigh, 15.
“I loved it,” Bailee said. “When we were standing in line for pictures, I started crying. I just love Braiden.”